2016-05-26 / Nature

June Brings Hurricane Season and a King Tide

By Jack Kelly

The full moon or Strawberry Moon on June 20 will be at 7:02 a.m. The full moon or Strawberry Moon on June 20 will be at 7:02 a.m. Hurricane season begins June 1. Most everyone has a Hurricane Bob story and many city residents even have a Hurricane Carol story. StormReporter training is a great opportunity to learn how to safely observe and document storm damage (see sidebar).

One aspect of the training involves charting a phenomenon known as a king tide. Several times a year, during full or new moon cycles, the tides are higher than normal and provide a glimpse of what future water levels will be as sea level rise accelerates with climate change. “King tide” is not a scientific term, but it is a colloquial expression for especially high tides that occur a few times a year. The term originated in Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific nations in reference to predictable higher than average tides influenced by the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon. The term is now used in North America to describe the same events.

One regular higher-than-average tide is the new moon tide. This occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, meaning that the three celestial bodies are in alignment. The moon is invisible from the Earth, and shortly thereafter appears as a slender crescent moon. This is also known as syzygy, when tidal effects are increased, creating spring tides, named not for the season, but for the fact the water “springs” higher than normal. Differences between high and low water levels vary as the moon waxes and wanes from new to full and back to new again during its orbits around Earth.

The next king tide, or spring tide, will occur locally on Saturday, June 4, at 8:09 p.m. with a predicted 5- foot, new moon tidal influence. This event means that tides will run 1-1.5 feet above a normal high tide. Tides will run in the five-foot level for the following two days during the new moon cycle. Coastal storms, including hurricanes and nor’easters which may strike Rhode Island during high tide events, accentuate the flow of water into many low-lying areas.

According to Wenley Ferguson, Save The Bay’s habitat restoration specialist, “Monitoring extremely high tides and storm events is very helpful in visualizing future sea levels and high tide conditions, and is critical to local communities in identifying areas we need to focus on now for infrastructure removal and adaptation projects.”

Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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