Biggest tides of the year set to hit California later this week

By Paul Rodgers/San Jose Mercury News

If you head down the beach this week, or wander along the edges of San Francisco Bay, you may just be witnessing California’s future.

The ocean is getting closer.

This week, California will experience the highest tides of the year, peaking on Thursday morning in a condition known as “king tides.” Beaches will temporarily disappear. Water will lap high on docks at marinas.

The gravitational tug of the moon and sun, not climate change, is responsible for the extreme tides. But volunteers with cameras across the state are using the event to document what California could look like in the coming decades as the warming earth continues to raise sea levels.

When people see the high tides this week,scientists hope many will make that connection.

“You can read something, but when you see it firsthand, it’s more powerful,” said Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. “When you see a place you know, when you see a king tide and say, wow, it’s six inches from the San Francisco International Airport runway, you realize this is real. It’s not just a model.”

King tides occur several times a year, although this week’s are the biggest of 2012.

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