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State Parks says King Tides show potential effects of sea level rise

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 21, 2019

King Tides are bringing higher high tides and lower low tides to Central Coast beaches.

It only happens a couple times of year and though short, California State Parks says it’s a potential glimpse into the future.

On Monday, onlookers watched as the big waves rolled in near Morro Rock.

“We were out here just a couple of weeks ago and it was definitely calmer toward the mouth of the bay there, so it’s bigger than we’re used to seeing, absolutely,” said Jill Rietjens.

The Morro Bay Harbor Patrol cruised the waters in between tides early Monday afternoon.

“We’ve seen very high water levels in the bay and we’ve seen what looks like quite strong currents heading out from the bay towards the sea,” said beachgoer Lou Adams.

King Tides are interesting to watch, but what causes them?

“The earth, the sun and then the moon, they’re all aligned and it’s kind of like an earth sandwich, so the sun and the moon will pull at the earth,” explained Robin Hazard, Morro Bay State Park Interpretive Specialist. “It’s a gravitational pull and it makes for higher high tides and lower low tides.”

The peak of high tide was at 10:51 a.m. on Monday.

Windy Cove at Morro Bay State Park at the peak of the high tide on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy Morro Bay State Park)
Photo taken at Windy Cove one week prior to the King Tides. (Photo courtesy Morro Bay State Park)


Wildlife is affected by the King Tides, as well.

“We have birds called black oystercatchers that nest right above the high tide zone,” said Cara O’Brien, Morro Bay State Park Interpreter.

She says during episodes like this, the birds are stressed and without food.

Otters were also being pushed out to sea, rapidly, with the tide change early afternoon.

California State Parks says while King Tides showcase a naturally occurring event…

“They’re also going to help us visualize what we can do to start to mitigate the effect of sea level rise along the coast,” said Erin Gates, Hearst Castle Distance Learning Presenter.

If you took pictures of the King Tides, State Parks and the Coastal Commission ask you to share them on social media using the hashtag #californiakingtides so they can see what sea level rise could look like in the future.

Morro Bay State Park was part of a social media live stream Monday morning showing what it looked like in our own backyard compared to other state parks in California.