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Latest King Tide Sets New Record For Virginia Key

Emily Michot Miami Herald
A King Tide flooded Matheson Hammock Park in October 2017.

More than a week's worth of King Tides set a new record at Virginia Key, running higher than the high tides during seasonal tides that typically hit in the fall.

For the last eight days, each high tide has set a new record for the day, said Brian McNoldy, a University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science senior researcher. At it's highest, on Aug. 2, the tide reached 2.55 feet, more than a foot above the daily average of 1.33 feet. 

"It's a little strange, I have to admit, that we're getting this streak of eight record-breaking high tides in a row," he said. "I think the reason is just we had a new moon recently."

King Tides typically occur between the middle of September and mid November, driven by the moon, warm ocean waters and onshore winds. They're also pushed higher by the speed of the Florida Current, which flows from the Florida Straits and up along the Keys and the mainland to join the Gulf Stream. Atmospheric pressure at that time of year also drives the high tides, McNoldy said.

But this month, a new moon swung relatively close to Earth and helped push the tide higher.

Credit Source: Brian McNoldy, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Tidal records are most often set during hurricanes, when winds, waves and storm surge push water levels higher.

Increasing sea levels are also helping shatter records. Since the early 1990s, water levels near Virginia Key have risen about 5 inches, McNoldy said. 

"That's something that is always lurking in the background," McNoldy said. "Each year, it gets easier and easier to break high tide records and it gets harder and harder to break low tide records because we're gradually adding to the background."

NOAA is forecasting another King Tide for the end of August.

Jenny Staletovich is WLRN's Environment Editor. She has been a journalist working in Florida for nearly 20 years. Contact Jenny at jstaletovich@wlrnnews.org
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