Posts Tagged Sea levels

Dec 6 2015

Record-breaking Sea Levels in California


Re: Record-breaking Sea Levels in California
From: Abe Doherty, Climate Change Policy Advisor, California Ocean Protection Council
Date: December 3, 2015

California broke a record late last month: Sea levels at several tide stations in Southern California reached higher elevations than ever measured before, including during major storms. Water levels were higher than the “King Tides” that were predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), due to the ongoing El Niño, warm ocean temperatures and a minor storm. NOAA observations for San Diego, La Jolla and Santa Barbara show sea levels for November 25, 2015 higher than the maximum water levels ever recorded at these tide stations. The San Diego tide station has been recording sea levels since 1906, La Jolla since 1924 and Santa Barbara since 1974. San Diego experienced street flooding several miles inland when ocean water surged into the storm drain system.

During the past two years along the West Coast, surface waters have been unusually warm, which has contributed to higher coastal water levels. For example, the temperatures at the Santa Cruz wharf were as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, which is greater than the 1997-1998 El Niño. These warm ocean waters and other regional processes have caused an increase in water levels of an additional few inches of higher water levels beyond what was experienced during past strong El Niños. Sea levels recently have been up to a foot higher than expected. These elevated water levels are on top of the long term sea level rise trends that have occurred due to climate change, such as the eight inches of sea level rise that has been documented over the last century at the San Francisco tide station.

The current El Niño also has broken a record for one indicator of strength of El Niño conditions based on sea surface temperatures near the equator. Past strong El Niños in 1982-83 and 1997-98 produced 6 to 10 inches of elevated sea levels that persisted from fall until late spring and then became elevated again the following summer through fall. Winter storms during these past strong El Niños caused peak water levels of 1.5 to 3 feet above predicted levels, with high waves, storm surges and heavy precipitation resulting in disaster declarations for flooding in coastal counties. It is only prudent to assume that the current strong El Niño conditions could bring similar trouble.

Climate disruption is amplifying extreme events that threaten the health and safety of families and communities in California and around the world.

Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading body on climate change assessment, tell us that climate change increases the intensity of drought, wildfire, and flooding. California recently earned an “A” grade in a national assessment of state efforts to prepare for climate change, and there is a lot of great work and collaboration happening at all levels in California to address sea-level rise. But the amount of sea-level rise will make a big difference in the success of our efforts to adapt. The State of California Sea-level Rise Guidance Document projects up to five and a half feet of sea-level rise by 2100. However, carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have surpassed 400 parts per million. Scientists report that the last time the Earth had such levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, several million years ago, sea levels were more than twenty feet higher than current levels. The potential for sea-level rise greater than we now project is one of many reasons Californians take strong action to combat climate change.

Beyond adapting governance to an epoch of changing shoreline conditions, we also must be ready for floods, mudslides and coastal erosion during the current strong El Niño conditions. California state agencies have been working with emergency responders and local governments to prepare.

See for more information on California’s actions on climate.

See for information on preparedness for storm impacts.

See the California Ocean Protection Council website on El Niño for more information on elevated sea levels.

Sep 14 2012

Sea Level’s Rise Focus of Summit

Projections of dramatic change draw group to UCSD to strategize about vulnerabilities of affected areas

LA JOLLA — Climate researchers, social scientists and policy experts from across the Pacific Rim convened at UC San Diego last week to get ahead of seas projected to rise so dramatically that they could create some of the most visible effects of global warming.

Representatives from about 20 leading research universities and nonprofit groups in South Korea, Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere met to prepare for potentially catastrophic effects on 200 million people and trillions of dollars of coastal assets.

Sea levels off most of California are expected to rise about 3 feet by 2100, according to recent projections by the National Research Council. Higher seas create challenges for port cities from San Diego to Singapore, including the potential for dramatically increased damage to coastal roads, homes and beaches — especially during storms.

“All future development has to be assessed in regards to future rises in sea level,” Steffen Lehmann, professor of sustainable design at the University of South Australia, said during the conference. “Reducing the vulnerabilities of urban (areas) is the big topic, the big task ahead of us now.”

Potential responses include managing a retreat from eroding bluffs and reshaping coastal areas to buffer development from higher water levels. “The missing link (is) between the science and those guys in planning offices and architecture firms and city municipal offices,” Lehmann said.

David Woodruff, director of the University of California San Diego’s Sustainability Solutions Institute, organized the workshop to address that problem with cross-disciplinary discussions that move toward international action.

“We are trying to affect societal change,” he said. “The sooner we start scoping options, the less expensive it will be to save current infrastructure.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a consortium of 42 leading research institutions. Participants drafted a report about rising sea levels for top university leaders so they can make the topic a priority with national-level leaders around the Pacific Rim.

“I really think universities can play a key role,” said UC San Diego’s Charles Kennel. “They are right at the pivot point between connecting knowledge to action. … One of the places they need to transfer their knowledge to is adaptation to climate change.”

A warming climate causes sea levels to rise primarily by heating the oceans — which causes the water to expand — and by melting land ice, which drains water to the ocean. Sea levels at any given spot depend on a complex interaction of factors, such as ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and tectonic plate movements.

Global sea level has risen about 7 inches during the 20th century, the National Research Council said.

While sea-level-rise projections aren’t a sure thing, they are widely accepted by mainstream scientists. Skeptics see it as a waste of money to plan for problems that may not materialize for decades, or may be more modest than predicted.

Read more on the Union-Tribune San Diego.

Feb 4 2012

“King Tides” Illustrate Vulnerability of California Shoreline

King Tides in Pismo Beach, CA- Credit: Cassidy Teufel (9/24/11)

On Monday, some of the year’s highest tides will hit California shorelines, providing a glimpse of what the state can expect as sea levels rise in the coming years. These “king tides” – as the highest winter tides are called – will be captured by citizen imagery through the California King Tides Initiative.

The California Ocean Protection Council estimates more than one foot of sea level rise by 2050 and four to five feet by 2100 along the California coast. The initiative is getting the public involved by asking residents to photograph high tides in their neighborhood, highlighting the way homes, harbors, and other infrastructure, as well as beaches, wetlands, and public access to the coast may be affected by sea level rise in the future.

The final winter king tides well occur from Monday, February 6 through February 8. These February king tides mark the third of three winter king tides events, following earlier king tide events on January 20-22, 2012 and December 23-24, 2011.

Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website for tide charts with specific information about the timing and location of tide levels.


Where to view and photograph King Tides:

North Coast/Humboldt – Eureka: Woodley Island; Indian Island; Del Norte St. Pier; Halvorsen Park/The Adorni Center. Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. King Salmon Beach. New Navy Base Road in Manila/Samoa.

San Francisco Area Outer Coast: Ocean Beach; Stinson Beach; Pacifica: Beach Blvd. Sea Wall near the municipal pier; Laguna Salada. City of Capitola. City of Santa Cruz.

Inner SF Bay: Proposed Treasure Island development site. South Bay: Redwood Creek and proposed Redwood City dev. site, Dumbarton Bridge. Marin: Corte Madera, Richardson Bay, Gallinas Creek (North of China Camp).

Santa Barbara Area: Isla Vista beaches, Goleta Beach County Park, Leadbetter Beach, Butterfly Beach, Miramar Beach, Padaro Lane, Carpinteria Salt Marsh, Hobson State Beach, Faria, and Emma Wood State Beach.

Santa Monica: Broad Beach, Malibu shoreline homes, Marina del Rey, Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles.

Orange County: Seal Beach/Sunset Beach Oceanfront (City of Seal Beach), Huntington Harbor (Huntington Beach), Newport Beach islands and peninsula (Newport Beach).

San Diego: San Diego Bay, Oceanside Beach, San Elijo Lagoon, Del Mar Dog Beach/San Dieguito Lagoon Entrance, Torrey Pines (where Penasquitos enters the ocean), La Jolla Shores, and Mission Beach.