King tides — which average two feet higher than normal tides — flooded parts of San Francisco this weekend. And by doing so, they gave us a glimpse into how the city might look in the future with rising sea levels.
Over the weekend, the moon, Earth, and sun all came into a specific alignment, causing an unusually strong gravitational pull that made Bay Area coasts see rare high tides. In some areas like Half Moon Bay, the highest lunar tides of the year rose to 6.7 feet 9 a.m. — before dramatically plunging to about 1.5 feet lower than usual at 4 p.m., according to KRON4. While king tides are normal occurrences that can happen multiple times a year, they exacerbate sea level rise and have the potential to cause unusually severe coastal flooding.
Can you please do me a favor? Have a conversation about climate change with someone tomorrow. Talk about the people and the places you care about and want to protect.#KingTides https://t.co/WJ3IDGyEEl.— CA king tides (@CA_king_tides) December 6, 2021
That's exactly what happened this weekend in San Francisco.
Twitter was inundated with images showing a temporarily flooded San Francisco. Sidewalks along the Embarcadero were wet with sea water; those who chose to catch their breath on benches along Pier 39 found their feet soaked; Ocean Beach saw a recent sand restoration project effectively disappear back into the ocean. (Other parts of the Bay Area also experienced these exaggerated tides — as evident by this tweet of cyclists riding through a partially submerged San Francisco Bay Trail.)
Over the next three decades, the San Francisco Bay could swell by up nearly two feet — a figure that could more than triple by the end of the century. Because of this looming climate catastrophe, SF Port Commission released a report in November saying the City will need to raise parts of the Embarcadero by some 6 feet to avoid the worst of the flooding, per KQED.
So... let this weekend's king tides serve as a concrete example — albeit a tempered one — of what's to come, should we not steer ourselves away from the worst of the climate crisis. And because pictures really are worth a thousand words, especially as they pertain to natural phenomena, here are some of the most affecting images of Saturday and Sunday's king tides.
Embarcadero high tide, 6.7’— Burrito Justice (@burritojustice) December 2, 2021
King Tide is Saturday, 7.1’, ~5 inches higher than today pic.twitter.com/5pYkSTuTeG
King Tide! Flooded bike path at the edge of Richardson Bay, Mill Valley, California pic.twitter.com/iBV0A9VRdH— Katherine Baylor (@KJBaylor) December 3, 2021
Photo: Getty Images/m-kojot