News Local

'King tides' will get bigger: SFU expert

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The City of Vancouver and the provincial government want to strengthen beach infrastructure to protect local beaches. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

The City of Vancouver and the provincial government want to strengthen beach infrastructure to protect local beaches. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

The intensity of a so-called “king tide” expected to strike Vancouver’s waterfront on Christmas Day will grow in the coming decades, according to a Simon Fraser University expert.

John Clague, a professor in the department of earth sciences, said on Tuesday that what causes the highest tides of the year to crash against oceanfronts is akin to a “perfect storm.”

Conditions must be just right — king tides naturally occur twice a year, once around December and again in spring around the months of May and June — but there also needs to be stormy weather, particularly high winds that would drive the waves ashore.

But what has changed from the past, and will continue to change, is the rising sea level that adds more volume to the king tides.

In anticipation of the waves, the City of Vancouver has even taken what Clague called the unprecedented step of sandbagging along areas of Locarno Beach.

“We’re possibly beginning to see impacts of that on rare occasions when you got this perfect setup,” he said.

“At the end of the century, you’re talking about a few 10s of centimetres, maybe more ... then you got a king tide superposed on that, then you have a strong storm — and you can have some real problems.”

To this end, provincial government through LiveSmart BC has already launched a “King Tide Photo Initiative” that calls on residents to photograph coastlines where “infrastructure and ecosystems are vulnerable to flooding due to sea level rise.”

Clague said the data is valuable, as king tides are examples of the “worst that mother nature can throw at you.” Identifying affected locations can help governments form plans to harden coastline infrastructure.

“It’s a worthwhile thing to do, it’s kind of crowdsourcing almost, to document what happens under present-day conditions under extreme events.”

Photos can be shared with the hashtag #kingtidesBC on social media platforms.

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions