Q&A – What Causes King Tides And Are They Getting Worse?

Today’s entry: Street flooding isn’t exactly new in South Florida, but it does seem to be getting worse. Are king tides happening more frequently? Sea level rise? Is it my imagination? 

Bottom Line: Well, it’s not your imagination. We have had higher and more frequent king tides in recent years but the reason why this week’s tides have been worse than usual is mostly due to the duel impact of Hurricane Teddy and the disturbance just off our coast. The better news for the moment is that we’ve likely seen the worst at least for now. According to NOAA, Monday was the last day of the most recent king tide cycle. There will be two more in 2020. According to NOAA, they'll happen on October 14th-21st and November 13th-18th. 

Now, let’s start by looking at what a king tide is. According to the EPA, "The king tide is the highest predicted high tide of the year at a coastal location. It is above the highest water level reached at high tide on an average day. King tides occur when the orbits and alignment of the Earth, moon, and sun combine to produce the greatest tidal effects of the year".

So, king tides are unrelated to sea-level rise or any other dynamic which specifically may play out on this planet. It’s about astronomy, not climate change. As to how high those tides are though. They have been rising. According to NASA scientists, we’re averaging .06 inches per year in sea level rise and globally sea levels are 8 inches higher than they were on average in 1880. Now, that’s not equitable everywhere around the world. NOAA has various observation points around so it can vary in South Florida. But yes, all other factors being equitable we are seeing higher king tides than we’ve seen previously. For now though, thankfully unless we have a late-season hurricane bearing down on us when the next two king tides hit, what we’ve experienced over the past week should be about the worst of it for the rest of the year.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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Photo by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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