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Yuletide King Tides

Unusually High Tides Will Mark Holiday Weekend


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Starting early Friday morning, a new moon-influenced tidal event will bring some of the year’s highest tides to the South Coast during the holiday weekend. Commonly called “King Tides,” the high watermark fun begins on December 23 with a peak of nearly 7 feet just after 7:30 a.m. for Santa Barbara beaches. The tide will creep even higher the following day and top out at 6.93 feet just after 8:20 a.m. Christmas morning will see the high tides start to take a turn back toward normal with a 6.74-foot peak at 9:09 a.m.

The King Tide event, which returns to a certain degree early in the New Year on the weekend of January 21 and then again on February 6 and 7, is the result of the above-average gravitational pull experienced when sun and moon align (this happens roughly every 14 days) as the Earth also happens to be at its closest point to the sun. The latter, which is called “perihelion,” happens twice a year, and as a result, we see two corresponding periods of King Tides: one in the winter (which technically began this past Wednesday) and one in the summer. Luckily, according to the National Weather Service, the weather is expected to be quite mild with relatively calm seas this weekend, so the extra tidal push will not get any added weather umph, something that can wreak havoc on low-lying coastal areas during King Tides.

Also of interest, this year’s King Tides are being used by folks from California’s Coastkeeper Alliance as an opportunity to encourage people to get out to their local shorelines and get a futuristic glimpse, if you will, of what sea level rise might look like in your neighborhood. Here in the Santa Barbara area, though the big tides will be markedly noticeable virtually everywhere the sea meets the sand, some of the best viewing will happen away from our point breaks. Think Sands Beach instead of Rincon or Goleta Beach instead of Campus Point.

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