It’s almost time for the new moon—the start of the monthly lunar cycle when the moon is most closely aligned with the sun—and that can bring unusually high tides. Last winter, many West Coast residents (or was it just me?) were acquainted for the first time with the term “king tide.” That’s a really, really high tide, influenced not only by the above-mentioned solunar alignment but also by stormy winter conditions.

Morro Rock Reflecting in a Lagoon.
The reason the term came into currency last winter. was that government agencies, like the California Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, got together with conservation groups, including some banded together as the California Coastkeeper Alliance, to publicize the occurrence of some extreme tides. The water would be high enough that it could be counted on to at least partially flood many low-lying areas—such as U.S. 101 between Oyster Point and Candlestick Park— and afford the public a close-up view of how the future will look if sea level rises, as predicted, under the influence of climate change. As it turned out last winter, stormy conditions during February’s tidal event created some dramatic scenes around the Bay Area.

Beyond publicizing the high water, the California King Tides Initiative wants to get citizens involved in recording the events—both to educate them as observers and to collect documentation for further study of sea-level rise.

“We want to encourage people to go out to the coast and start to visualize how sea-level rise could impact the California coast, both our ecosystems, our shoreline areas and our infrastructure that are very vulnerable to inundation and flooding,” says Sara Aminzadeh, acting executive director of California Coastkeeper.

See the King Tides Initiative site for advice on where and how to shoot the tide event and on how to share your pictures.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at

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