King Tides Explained

Image courtesy of NOAA. It and more information on tides can be found  at  here.
Image courtesy of NOAA. It and more information on tides can be found at here.

It is winter, so King Tides are here again. “King Tide” has become a popular term recently to explain an especially high tide. King Tide is not a scientifically meaningful term and originated in Australia and New Zealand as a reference to the high tides that occur around Christmas. Of course with the highest highs come the lowest low tides too.

The sizes of our tides change in a repeating and predictable way due to the interplay between the angles, distances and positions of the earth, sun and moon. The sun’s influence is about half that of the moon. Spring tides occur during new and full moons when the earth, moon, and sun are in alignment.

Image courtesy of NOAA.
The position of the earth, sun and moon at a spring tide during perigee (a new moon). The moon can also be on the other side of the earth at apogee (a full moon) and it is also called a spring tide (though the tide will not be as pronounced). Image courtesy of NOAA.

King tides occur 2-3 times a year between November and January when all the influencing factors combine to form “the perfect storm of tides”. First, the earth is as close as it can be to the sun (perihelion). Second, the earth, sun and moon are in alignment (in the position of a spring tide). A King Tide can occur at either a full or a new moon. But it will be one of either! King tide conditions usually persist for three or four days, when the earth, moon, and sun are closest to being in alignment.

Technically, a King Tide is a perigean spring tide, that occurs at perihelion.

There is an organization called the California King Tides Project that is using King Tides to raise awareness of flooding and sea-level rise. The idea is that by observing the effects of super high tides, especially if they occur during winter storms, people can wrap their heads around what will be in store for us as sea level rises with climate change. It’s also an opportunity for citizens to help document the changes to our coast. Check out some photos people have submitted to their California King Tides Photo Initiative Pool.

King Tides 2015/2016

King Tides will occur in 2015/16 on

  • November 24, 25, and 26, 2015
  • December 22, 23, and 24, 2015
  • January 21 and 22, 2016

    To see the listing of high tides throughout California during King Tide events click here.
    To find the times of all high and low tides throughout California go to NOAA tide predictions website.

    For our Santa Cruz Readers
    High Tide Dates/Times

  • Nov 24, 2015, 8:14 am, 6.22′
  • Nov 25, 2015, 8:56 am, 6.34′
  • Nov 26, 2015, 9:38 am, 6.3′

  • Dec 22, 2015, 7:09 am, 6.12′
  • Dec 23, 2015, 7:53 am, 6.28′
  • Dec 24, 2015, 8:37 pm, 6:32′

  • Jan 21, 2016, 7:42 am, 6.03′
  • Jan 22, 2016, 8:27 am, 6.02′

    To find the times of all high and low tides in Santa Cruz go to NOAA tide predictions website.

    1. Sources Used

      • California King Tides Project website
      • King Tides to hit Monterey Bay shores. Samantha Clark. Santa Cruz Sentinel. December, 19, 2015.
      • Tidal Variations - The Influence of Position and Distance. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Service Education Website.

  • About The Author

    I really enjoy field trips. I love being in a cool place and having someone tell me about it. The problem is, you can’t always find a professor or park ranger-type to tell you all they know about the local rocks, plants, and history. So I decided to combine my love of things natural with mobile technology.

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