An ocean phenomenon that occurs twice a year that can cause coastal flooding arrived during the second week of February, and scientists and environmental organizations view them as a potential threat to California’s coast.

The King Tides extreme winter high tide events occur as the result of the combined gravitational forces of the sun and moon, according to Santa Monica Baykeeper. The organization believes the tides can provide a glimpse of what rising sea levels could look like for Californians in the coming years.

“Sea level rise is a serious and imminent threat to the environmental and economic infrastructure of the California coastline,” said Santa Monica Baykeeper Executive Director Elizabeth Crosson. “King tides are a unique opportunity to envision the flooding, erosion, and damage that will inevitably occur unless policy and community action measures ensure that our coastal wetlands and estuaries are intact, and shoreline resources protected.”

The high tides occurred over a three-day period this month: Feb. 6-8.

Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay is also concerned about the high tides. “The tides are a natural oceanographic phenomenon that occurs twice a year, once in winter and once in summer,” explained Heal the Bay’s coastal resources director Sarah Sikich in an interview last year. “It’s a good occasion to educate people about sea level rise.”

According to the California Energy Commission, the state “may see up to a 55-inch rise in sea level within this century. This living document intends to inspire communities and policymakers to take action against global warming, and the necessary steps to protect our coastal beaches, wetlands, and development from destruction as our shoreline disappears under rising seas.”

A 2009 Pacific Institute sea level rise report forecasts more than one foot of sea level rise by 2050 and four to five feet by 2100 along the California coast.

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