What are King Tides?

While the term ‘king tide’ isn’t a scientific term, it is used to describe an especially high tide event, when there is alignment of the gravitational pull between sun and moon.

When king tides occur during cyclones, floods or storms, water levels can rise to higher levels and have the potential to cause great damage to property and the coastline.

The king tides are no more than the very highest tides that occur at each place. They:

  • occur naturally and regularly,
  • are predictable  and expected, and
  • are not an every day occurrence.

Climate change, sea level rise, and king tides

Increases in global sea levels have been recorded by NOAA tide gauges for many years, and more recent observations have been collected by NASA satellites. The steady rise in sea levels has been attributed to both a warming expansion of the oceans and contributions from melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets. Climate modeling combined with these direct observations suggest sea level rise will continue well into the future with significant implications for California’s coastal communities. During extreme high tide events, we can get an idea of what a permanent rise in sea level might look like in our communities.