King Tides an Opportunity to Educate about Sea Level Rise

King Tides are "a glimpse into the future," of sea level rise, say experts. Click above to see NBC News' story on the first set of King Tides this season.
King Tides are “a glimpse into the future,” of sea level rise, say experts. Click above to see NBC News’ story on the first set of King Tides this season.

The highest tides of the year are back in the Bay Area. With sea levels peaking over 11 feet in some areas of the Bay – flooding roadways, freeway onramps and more – the King Tides, which we will experience at least six days this winter, have become an annual reminder of our need to prepare for the serious impacts facing us with sea level rise. (Click here to read more about what produces King Tides)

If you ask scientists and policy experts about sea level rise planning, one of the most difficult challenges we face is that despite the enormous impacts sea level rise will have on the Bay Area (over $50 billion in property and infrastructure is at risk, according to the Pacific Institute), the issue is still not universally seen as an immediate and pressing threat for many policymakers. There is also a lack of strong regulations and guidance at the statewide and regional levels for local jurisdictions to address these issues. This highlights the need for voters to understand and voice their concerns about sea level rise.

A recent poll (full results here) by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that most Californians (63%) recognize that the impacts of climate change are already being felt and three-in-four (75%) support “steps to counter the effect of global warming right away,” yet only 28% of Bay Area residents said they were “very concerned” about the impacts of flooding as a result of global warming. It’s important to note, however, that these numbers were much higher for communities at greater risk of flooding, due to neighborhoods being built in flood zones – African Americans and Latinos were nearly twice as likely (40% and 42%, respectively) to be “very concerned” about the risk of flooding.

While you can mine the data further to see that a majority (56%) of California voters are either “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about increased flooding, the lower poll numbers compared to other global warming impacts (like wildfires) suggest that we still have a need to educate residents – and particularly policymakers – about the threats to the Bay Area from sea level rise, and how flooding will impact the places that we care about: our homes, our schools, and our communities.

You will be seeing more from Save The Bay on this subject in the next month, but in the meantime, here’s a few highlights of the impacts of sea level rise to keep in mind:

Highlights of Potential Impacts to the Bay Area from Sea Level Rise

  • Nearly 100 schools and healthcare facilities are threatened
  • 1,780 miles of roads and highways could be underwater
  • 270,000 renters and homeowners could be displaced or otherwise impacted
  • Over 3,000 acres of wetlands could be lost
  • Major infrastructure – including SFO International Airport, Oakland International Airport, the San Mateo and Dumbarton Bridges would be seriously affected, as could dozens of power plants and sewage treatment plants
  • Dozens of toxic sites listed as hazardous by the EPA could be inundated, posing a risk to Bay water quality and wildlife

Source: The Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the San Francisco Bay, Pacific Institute 2012. These numbers are reflective of a 55” rise in sea levels by 2100.


To learn more about the King Tides, as well as submit and view photos of areas near you that have been impacted, visit the California King Tides Initiative at