King tide is a popular term used to refer to an especially high tide. King tides are simply the very highest tides. Conversely, the low tides that occur at this time are the very lowest tides. 

Photograph by @j_sand_photog

King Tides themselves are not caused by sea level rise, but allow us to experience what higher sea level will be like. King Tides are the highest high tides of the year, about a foot or two higher than average tides, which corresponds to the one to two foot rise in sea level expected during the next few decades.

The king tides occur when the earth, moon and sun are aligned at perigee and perihelion, resulting in the largest tidal range seen over the course of a year. Alignments that are ‘near enough’ occur during approximately three months each winter and again for three months in the summer. During these months, the high tides are higher than the average highest tides for three or four days. Winter king tides may be amplified by weather and ocean conditions making these events more dramatic. In the northern hemisphere, the term king tide is used to describe each of these winter high tide events. 

Photograph by Laura Oergel

When you observe the King Tides, imagine seeing these tides (and the flooded streets, beaches, and wetlands) every day. Understanding what a King Tide looks like today will help us plan for sea level rise in the future.

To aid in this understand, each year our chapter asks the community to get involved by photographing the high tides at their favorite Ventura County. To see some of the photographs, check out the map for the #CaliforniaKingTidesProject

This information is courtesy of Surfrider’s beachapedia.org and the California Coastal Commission