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You Can Help Scientists Study King Tides This Weekend

A lifeguard chair stands surrounded by water at Alamitos Bay in Long Beach, Calif. on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
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If you're heading to the beach this weekend, you may want to roll up your pant legs a bit higher – because king tides are coming back to the California coast.

If that sounds familiar, it's because we got our first round of these annual, super-high (and super-low) tides just last month.

King tides generally roll through about twice a year, when the sun, moon, and earth are aligned in just the right way, boosting the existing gravitational forces that produce our regular tide cycles.

Several agencies are teaming up to document the phenomenon again, and anyone with a smartphone can become a citizen scientist for a day to help out.

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It's as easy as going to the beach, snapping a picture of the high tide, and uploading it to an app with the California King Tides Project. Photos will be catalogued by time and location to create a record of current conditions.

"We want people to get used to photographing the coast all the time," said Phyllis Grifman, associate director of NOAA's Sea Grant project at USC, which runs the Urban Tides Program, a year-round citizen science program dedicated to recording the local coastline.

But the idea is that higher-than-normal tides can give us a better idea of what the waterline will look like if sea levels continue to rise.

California's last Climate Assessment report found that local sea level could go up by as much as 4 feet in the next 30 years, which would inevitably threaten nearly $18 billion worth of property and infrastructure in coastal communities across the state.

"We don't want people to see sea level rise as an event," Grifman said. "We want to illustrate this as a series of inexorable changes that are happening to the coast right now."