Supermoon? King Tide? Who are these superheroes or supervillains? What am I talking about, you ask? Okay, here is the deal.
One of the most super of moons, as well as the kingliest of tides is heading our way once again on New Year’s Day. We will experience not only the second closest “Supermoon” (though it will be a new moon) to the earth in 2014, but also its most humble side-kick, “King Tide” or simply one of the highest (and lowest) tides of the year. In January 2014 there will be two supermoons, and there will be a total of five supermoons this year.
Both of the January supermoons are new moons, however, so you won’t be able to see them but you will be able to experience their effects if you live near the ocean or waterway that is affected by the ocean in the form of a King Tide.
A “supermoon” is not a technical term that stems from astronomy. It was probably coined about 30 years by an astrologer, not an astronomer, named Richard Noelle. However, the term is being used more today by scientists and the public to help describe these normal lunar events.
A supermoon occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the earth in its 27.5-day orbit, (which happens each month). But, for it to be an actual supermoon, that event needs to coincide with a full or new moon. This can actually happen about 4-5 times per year. This particular supermoon will be the second closest of the year, with the closest occurring in August 2014. In this coming year, we will have a total of five supermoons, with two in January and the others in July, August and September.
What is a King Tide then, and what does this have to do with a supermoon?
The oceans are affected by the moon’s gravitational pull, and a full moon brings a higher and lower tide during a lunar cycle. King tides are simply the highest tides of the year and happen during a time when the moon is closest to the earth and is aligned with the sun during a full or new moon. They are usually more dramatic in the wintertime. King tide is not a scientific term, but is also used to describe this naturally occurring event. Though the highest tide is actually known as the king tide, it will also bring the lowest tide, which is pretty amazing to witness.
Last year in December 2012, I went out to Rio Del Mar and Seacliff during the king tide to witness the low tide for myself. It was amazing. I posted the photos above. If you have never seen this before, you really should check it out. It was surprising how far the tide went out and how far I was able to walk out on the beach. We saw a lot of different creatures, plants and shells that we normally wouldn’t see. It was also a lot of fun to stand out away from where the shoreline usually ends, a very interesting perspective with a wide area of wet beach to explore. We could also see the ridge of where the high tide had come in earlier, definitely above where it normally would go. If you plan it well, you can get glimpses into tide pools and tidal shelves that you wouldn’t normally see. Check your local area, sometimes there are king tide tours available, and of course be careful.
You should be able to see these higher and lower tides from December 30th through January 2nd, with the most extreme on January 1st. The high tides are interesting to see, but the lowest tides are more fun to explore.
You can also help scientists by taking photos of King Tides and submitting
them. This helps them visualize the impact of rising water along our
coastlines. If you miss this one, stick around for the end
of the month where it will happen again on January 30, 2014, with the king tides
visible from January 29 through 31st. The surf and swells from recent Pacific storms have been pretty strong, so we will have to see if it works out in timing.
Some people might worry about all this. However, no need for worry, this is a natural occurrence that has been happening all along, it has just been in the past number of years where it has been really brought to the public spotlight, so relax and have fun! Take yourself, friends and/or family out to the beach this New Year’s Day to explore.
out your local tide tables to find out when they occur, as the times vary
with location. Also, both high and low tides occur twice a day. Plan on getting
there an hour or two before so you can actually experience it while it is
happening, it is a slow process, but one worth enjoying. Take some photos while you are there, too. Share them on Patch for us to see, and submit them for research. While you are there, maybe consider a little trash clean up as well before the tide rolls back in.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s supermoon! Go outside and
enjoy, and let’s hope the weather cooperates too!