2018 got off to an interesting start with the arrival of the King tides. These tides are rare, and they bring the highest tides of the year. 2017 was a rare year, with an unusual number of very high tides. Because of that, public awareness about King tides grew throughout the year.
These tides have caused concern among city and state officials. The famous Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore has suffered serious erosion after a large north swell brought giant surf to the area. Beaches in Windward Oahu are seeing similar conditions. Waves wash over coastal roads and damage an important highway. Crews scramble to repair the damage before the next extreme tidal event.
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The famous beach in Waikiki has had to be resupplied with sand because of the increase in King tides. Adding to the concerns over unusually high tides are climate change and rising sea levels. Ocean experts and officials recently conducted a study. It found that government and private property owners will have to spend $19 billion to protect against a two-three foot rise in sea levels in the next century.
Of course, tourism officials are also concerned about extreme tides and rising sea levels. The concrete beach-walk at Waikiki Beach already sees waves crash into it during the King tides. Chunks of the walk have broken off into the ocean.
Another concern to officials is that when these tides occur during heavy rains, runoff water triggers “Brown Water Warnings.” They alert the public to potential health hazards caused by the murky coastal waters that often follow heavy rains.
For visitors, this means that rising sea levels and increasing King tides may limit access to some of Hawaii’s most popular beaches, as they have at Sunset Beach. Combined with high surf, extremely high tides can also pose a safety risk for novice swimmers and beachgoers. It’s important for visitors to check with lifeguards about current ocean conditions, especially during King tides.