What Is a King Tide? Causes, Frequency, and More!

What Is a King Tide, Exactly?

A substantially greater than usual high tide is referred to in layman’s terms as a “king tide. “Although there is no scientific meaning for it, news outlets and seaside communities frequently use this expression. A tide needs to be higher than a typical high tide in order to be referred to as a king tide.

What Causes Regular High and Low Tides?

The term “tides” describes the flow of seawater around Earth caused by the Sun’s and Moon’s gravitational pull combined with the movement of the Earth. While both the Moon and the Sun have a significant influence on tides, the Moon’s effect is twice as great.

The moon’s gravitational pull is primarily responsible for tides occurring as frequently as they do. The water in the ocean is drawn toward the moon wherever it is.

The tide is also high on the side of the planet that faces the Moon. This is due to the surface water on our planet taking on an oval form due to the gravitational pull of the Moon. The low tides lie at right angles to this high tide ellipse, which is directed toward the moon.

How Frequently Do High and Low Waves Occur?

In most coastal places, there are typically two high tides and two low tides each day. Every twelve hours and twenty-five minutes, these tides rotate.

The highest and lowest tides occur during the full and new moons, roughly every 14 days. Despite having nothing to do with spring, these tides are known as spring tides. The reason they are called spring tides is that water rises toward the moon when it is full.

Scientists, seafarers, and fisherman keep a close eye on the spring tides. This is due to the fact that they are typically 20% more spectacular than the typical high and low tides.

Why Do King Tides Occur?

King tides occur when the moon is in either of these phases, however they don’t always occur during Full or New Moons. When the Moon is in either of these periods of perigee, the tides are king tides. A king tide is the term used to describe a perigee spring tide.

The Moon has two points during its 27-day cycle where it is closest to and furthest from Earth due to its uneven elliptical orbit around the planet. We refer to these intimate moments as perigee.

King tides can also occasionally be improved by the Sun’s position. Perihelion is the name for the point in the Earth’s orbit when the Sun is closest to the planet. The largest astronomical king tides are achievable when the Moon is at perigee and the Sun is at perihelion at the same time.

Storms Make King Tides Worse

If a king tide occurs during a strong storm, it may be far worse. Storm surges are occasionally produced by heavy storms, and when these surges coincide with a king tide, catastrophic flooding may happen.

Sea levels increase as a result of storm surges faster than the regular astronomical tides. Storm surges are primarily caused by winds pushing more water onshore in a manner akin to a tsunami; the stronger the storm, the higher the surge. Storm surges can be as much as 40 feet higher than a standard tide on a typical day when combined with king tides.

How Often Do King Tides Happen?

There are often three or four king tides a year, albeit they occur at least twice. Because every location on Earth lines up with the Sun and Moon at a different moment, they don’t occur everywhere at once.

There are just a few major king tides that occur annually. The Moon must be either new or full, the Earth must be at perihelion with the Sun, and the Moon must be at perigee with Earth in order for these maximum king tides to occur. The Earth’s surface water is under the most gravitational force at this precise moment, resulting in the most spectacular tides.

When Do King Tides Usually Happen?

Every year, around January 4, there are enhanced solar tides, however they can vary somewhat. The highest tides of the year are most likely to happen in January. King tides occur periodically in the spring and fall in most parts of the world.

Because catastrophic storm surges cause noticeably higher tides than at any other time, some coastal towns have begun referring to them as “king tides.” This classification is proper since there is no scientific basis for the name “king tides.” Because of this, the frequency of king tides is rising sharply each year as sea levels rise and larger storms are generated by climate change.

Are King Tides Predictable?

King tides are often predictable. This is so that astronomers can predict when the Sun, Moon, and Earth will be in specific places by tracking the motion of the celestial bodies in our solar system.

As a result, we are aware of the exact times when the Earth, Moon, and Sun will line up to create the highest tides. Weather patterns, on the other hand, are unpredictable well in advance. It will only take a few days to know in advance if inclement weather coincides with a king tide.

King Tides and Climate Change

King tides provide an ideal opportunity to research climate change. They make it possible for researchers and urban planners to evaluate how rising sea levels impact infrastructure.

Sea levels will continue to increase as Earth’s temperatures rise. Therefore, in the future, the water levels we experience during a king tide will be normal.

Scientists and governments can take preventative action in advance by monitoring the devastation caused by king tides. The data from king tide events is useful for a few different types of projects. These include topics like the best places to put in sea walls, where to put water drainage pumps, and which areas are in dire need of coastal dune restoration.