If you lived on Miami Beach or a few spots on the mainland, you might have stepped into a six-inch puddle yesterday, despite the sunny skies above.
That’s because it’s time for the annual king tides, which kicked off Thursday and are expected to last about a week. (The Miami Herald has some crazy pictures from all over the city.)
The annual phenom brings the highest tides of the whole year. Basically, the monthly high tide (called a spring tide) coincides with the earth’s closest orbit to the moon in the whole year. The closeness of the moon takes tides to their extremes. (The moon’s gravitational pull affects tidal levels all the time, but at different degrees.)
In a lot of places, king tides have almost no impact. But Miami in 2016 is not most places. And coupled with some disruptions from Hurricane Nicole (far away and not at all a threat to South Florida), this is not going to be a typical king tide.
FIU’s Sea Level Rise Solutions Center sees these tides as kind of an asset. They help everyday people understand what water levels every day could look like in the future, given the rate at which seas are rising nowadays.
King tides are also so extreme (I’m looking down my street at a half-foot of water that has submerged a bunch of empty parking spots) that they might get otherwise complacent folks to wake up and notice the saltwater lapping at their door, they write in their fact sheet.
FIU is trying to build a sweeping picture of how king tides affect South Florida with Eyes on the Rise, a project out of the journalism school to crowd source data from all across the city on what happens when the big one sweeps in. Nowadays they’re partnering with the well-known Sea Level Rise Solutions Center to share the info.
Based on previous years, the organizers have pinpointed a few likely locations for bad flooding here (places like Morningside Park in the Upper East Side and Brickell Point). Some of them might surprise you because they’re pretty far inland.
But at a time when the water is just as likely to come up through the storm drains as over the sea wall, it doesn’t matter much whether you’re waterfront or deep inland.