King Tide season is here with astronomical high waves

Nov 18, 2022, 3:32 PM

king tide...

Disappointment Lighthouse King Tide Washington Coast (Photo from Flickr)

(Photo from Flickr)

‘Tis the season – King Tide season that is. The Puget Sound area gets its highest astronomical high tides of the year in the winter months, called King Tides.

Several factors are involved in creating these King Tides. First, the earth’s annual rotation around the sun is not a perfect circle – it is more elliptical. During the northern hemisphere’s winter season, the earth is closer to the sun than in the summer, meaning the sun has a greater gravitational pull.

November dry streak could break record for Puget Sound region

Second, King Tides occur when Earth aligns itself between the moon rotating around our planet and the sun. Since the Earth is seasonally closer to the sun, combined with the moon’s greater gravitational pull on the oceans, the highest tides occur this time of the year.

King Tides alone can cause minor tidal overflow in low-lying western Washington coastal areas, including the Puget Sound. But if a storm with lower atmospheric pressure and strong winds coincides with a King Tide, the tide will be even higher and wave action can produce much greater coastal flood damage.

Here are a couple of examples that highlight what stormy King Tides can do. In late October 2003, a combined King Tide and strong wind event occurred. The most memorable damage happened at Ivar’s Restaurant next door to the former Mukilteo Ferry Terminal.

Another stormy King Tide event occurred on Dec. 17, 2012. A number of Puget Sound coastal locations suffered high water and wave action damage, including water and logs into homes – not a desired holiday gift under the tree.

In the next few months, there will be several King Tide periods noted on forecast tide charts. For Seattle, greater than 12-foot tides:

  • Nov. 27 through Dec. 2
  • Dec. 11 and 12
  • Dec. 26 through 31
  • Jan. 10 through 13
  • Jan. 24 through 28

The highest predicted King Tide of the season for Seattle will be 13.1 feet on Jan. 24 at 7:21 a.m.

With more normal stormy November weather resuming next week, any strong blustery storms could exasperate King Tides late this month or later in the winter season.

Property owners along shorelines can take action now to help avoid damage during stormy King Tides, such as reinforcing seawalls and other protective structures.

You can remain informed of potential Puget Sound area coastal flooding by monitoring the National Weather Service, which issues coastal flooding emergency messaging.

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King Tide season is here with astronomical high waves