"And you know I'll be where my heart feels free, and my thoughts are free to fly.
Oh mama, please don't make me lie, I need my freedom, need my open sky." ~Railroad Earth

23 February 2014

"Wringing" the New Year with the King Tides

[This post has been in draft form for 1.5 months, so I figured it was time to accept its imperfections and wrap it up. Lindsey, my fellow king-tide tour-guide also wrote a post, available here]

Choose inundation over inebriation** and celebrate King Tides because it's much more exciting than celebrating the New Year. Why? [Thanks to Lindsey for helping brainstorm this list]
  1. The party don't stop: They happen for 3 days, so you can "Cheers!" and wish everyone a HAPPY KING TIDE at least 3 times. And since they happen in different places at different times, you can chase the tide and have that exciting moment multiple times in a day.
  2. The party don't stop #2: Another good reason to drink at the Embarcadero 
  3. Play; Splashing in puddles an getting hit by waves in normally dry places.
  4. Excitement: Fleeing men in golf carts
  5. See the future: See what the world will look like every day with sea level rise. 
  6. And, because this is a kayaking blog... Expanded kayaking territory. As the water rises, it moves into nearby low-lying areas that are not normally wet, creating new spaces for kayakers to explore. 
** A wonderful expression coined by James Jackson

What are King Tides?
King Tides are the most extreme astronomical* tides that occur every year. A couple times per year, the earth, moon, and sun align in a way that creates the largest tide range. These days it's common for people to compare King Tides to sea level rise. The high tides that we see during the 2013 King Tides will likely happen on a daily basis in ~50 years (and the future King Tides would be even higher!). This year I decided to visit the coast during the King Tides so I could get a sense of what sea level rise might look like (on a good day, without storms).

* Sometimes non-astronomical forces, like weather/waves/storm, can raise tide levels for short periods of time. These changes are less predictable, while King Tides are regular and predictable.

Lindsey, Doug, James, and Barry were my tide-buddies for this year's celebration.

King Tides at the San Francisco Embarcadero (12/31/2013)
On the morning of New Years Eve Lindsey and I snuck out of the office and walked a half mile to the Embarcadero waterfront in San Francisco. The king tide was scheduled for 9:48 am (a 7.07 foot tide). We went to Pier 14, between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge, where the King Tides have flooded the Embarcadero in the past. Here are some photos:

Stairwell flooded, and waves breaking onto the sidewalk.

A video of waves lapping over the Embarcadero:

We (Lindsey, Barry, and I) also returned later at the very lowest tide of the day (during King Tides, the lowest tides get very low, so it's a great time to go tide-pooling!). We ran into one of Barry's friends who promptly offered me and Lindsey a ride on his bike-taxi to the Embarcadero. We celebrated the low tide with a six pack of beers, and cheers-ed! at 4:42 pm, when the tide hit -1.35 feet. Here's one of many low-high comparison photos we took:

Extreme low tide:

Extreme high tide:

And the view of San Francisco at sunset wasn't so bad either:

King Tides at Beach Boulevard in Pacifica, CA (1/1/2014)
The next day, Lindsey and I picked up James and Doug for our first King Tide tour of 2014. Our first stop was Beach Boulevard, CA. We also decided to form a band called the King Tide Kids. Cover album:

The crew: James, Doug, Lindsey, and Nena

No beach at high tide, with waves crashing on the massive revetment
We watched a group of kids standing at the edge of the railing daring each other to stay when big waves crashed over the seawall. 
Big waves rolling under the Beach Boulevard Pier

King Tides in Redwood City (1/1/2014)
Our final stops were in Redwood City, where we discovered a dock completely bent out of shape by the extreme high tide:

We (ok, I) decided to jump this fence to get a better view of the Bay at the end of the levee. Minutes later a small golf cart came bumbling along, catching up with us when we finally reached the view point. Two very angry men questioned us: "What was going through your mind when you walked past the 'No Trespassing' sign?" Thankfully Lindsey and Doug fielded the questions while I carefully avoided eye contact.

To learn more, and see much more dramatic photos, check out the California King Tides Initiative!


Dennis Sheehan said...

Bad Trespassers! :)

taplatt said...

I've never heard of the King Tides -- really cool. Also I love your band name.

Bailey said...

These aren't necessarily the post apocalyptic climate change photos I was hoping for - but they're pretty cool regardless. :)