King tides can give us an idea of what the coast will look like as sea levels continue to rise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that sea levels along the U.S. coast will increase up to 12 inches by 2050.
“These [water level] extremes will become more frequent,” said Engeman, and what looks like a very high tide today may, in the future, be our new normal.
By observing king tides, experts and city officials can plan for the impacts of flooding and erosion that come with sea level rise, but Engeman notes that we don’t just have flooding potential during king tidal events.
High tides throughout the year can cause flooding and erosion, especially when coupled with large waves from coastal storms and sea level rise, whether it’s climate-change induced or prompted by ocean warming during an El Niño.
Imperial Beach, which can see such flooding, is collaborating with The Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation to forecast floods and increase coastal resilience.
“Before things are fully underwater, the bigger threat is increased frequency of flooding. We lose bridges, roads, accessways and beach sand,” Engeman said. “The more we get these extreme water level events, the more our coast is going to be taking hits and the harder it is for it to recover.”