John Laird
2015 unpublished
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
more » ... 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,