Solar-lunar alignment create big waves, but flooding risk minimal


The winter’s highest tides are predicted for this week, but without the storms that hit Humboldt County in late December, flood risk is minimal, according to the National Weather Service.

National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Kidwell said the tide, which is considered a King Tide because of the alignment of the sun and the moon, peaked at 8.4 feet Monday morning and will probably be a little higher today and Wednesday.

“It’s actually going to be the highest (today), probably around 8.4 feet again,” Kidwell said. “But it usually has to get up to around 8.8 feet before we start seeing flooding.”

Kidwell said the solar-lunar alignment pulls ocean water to opposite sides of the Earth to create the King Tide conditions.

Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said that absent the winter storms that slammed the coast the last time, there were predictions of 8-foot tides, flooding won’t be an issue except for in the lowest lying of areas, like Jackson Ranch Road in Arcata or Pine Hill Road.

“It’s the highest predicted tide of the winter, but because there’s no storm forecast, the December tides will probably turn out to be higher,” she said. “Those were much higher than predicted — about a foot higher.”

According to Kalt, the tide on Dec. 22 was predicted to be 8.21 feet but turned out to be 9.11 feet.

No storms also makes for a more appealing photo opportunity, Kalt said, especially in light of the fact that what’s considered a record high today is expected to be the norm in 35 years.

“What’s predicted is 18 inches of sea level rise by 2050, so since the highest tides of the year — the King Tides — are about a foot higher than average high tides, it’s a good way to visualize what that’ll look like,” she said. “It’s not long off in the distance. It gives you a real sense that it is happening.”

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