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‘King tides’ bring dramatic sea level shift to SLO County beaches

Did you catch the exceptionally high tide on Monday morning?

That was the result of a period of “king tides” occurring along the coast. The tides are some of the highest and lowest of the year, separated by less than 12 hours. The term originated in Australia and has since spread throughout the rest of the nations that border the Pacific Ocean.

California started seeing the exceptional tides on Saturday and will continue to see them through Tuesday.

On Monday morning the high tide reached 6.8 feet at 9:30 a.m. followed by a low tide of -1.5 feet at 4:46 p.m. In other words, the level of the sea was set to shift 8.3 feet in a little over seven hours.

These flood and ebb tides create ripping currents in California’s bays and estuaries. The maximum tidal range along the Central Coast can reach from more than 2 feet below the mean low-water mark to more than 7 feet above it, for a tidal range of more than 9 feet.

Tides are enhanced when Earth is at perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the sun) and the moon is at perigee (the closest point in its orbit to the earth). The gravitational forces exerted by the moon and sun are at their greatest at this time.

This tugging produces a tidal “bulge,” or areas of higher sea level.

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