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King Tides Offer California a Preview of Sea Level Rise (With Photo Slideshow)

Recent King Tides in the San Francisco Bay area gave a glimpse of what sea level rise could look like.

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But, importantly, some of those onlookers didn't notice a thing. No matter which site of flooding or surging waves we visited, for every one person who was curious, there were several that didn't notice a thing. It turns out that San Francisco is not a drowning island - our environmental concerns are certainly present, but low-lying islanders experience environmental severity, one large wave at a time, much more severely than we do.  

While we are not immune to the devastating and costly impacts of sea level rise, there is just almost no way to compare even the worst tides here with the best tides on the flat, small island nations of Tuvalu, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and the Maldives. Each of those island nations is unbelievably vulnerable to storm surges and waves. If you stand at the sea during the King tide on one of Tuvalu's tiny islands, the water might very wall wash from one side to the other. 

While the Bay Area is impacted, and will continue to be impacted, by sea level rise, the biggest lesson learned from King Tide is how very safe we are in comparison to those most vulnerable to sea level rise. I did not set out with this intention. But it is remarkably true that those that contribute the least to global warming and our changing climate suffer the most from it. That was abundantly clear during the King Tide. 

King Tides in the San Francisco Bay Area

February 27, 2013


Are King Tides a glimpse at what future sea level rise may look like?

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Brook Meakins is an activist and attorney in Berkeley, California with a practice that specializes in providing legal assistance and advocacy for the populations of low-lying island countries who face imminent threat of climate-related disaster.

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