King tides may not be the all-seeing crystal ball that predicts our future, but scientists recognize them as an important way to visualize how sea level rise is likely to affect our coastlines.

King tides are extremely high tides that occur twice a year when the earth and moon align on one side of the earth and increase gravitational pull.

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program recruited citizens in 2010 to take photos of shores, structures and seawalls at peak lows and highs during the King tides to dramatically illustrate what changes already are being seen in our region. (Winners included Larry Stults of Sarasota with his photos of a submerged dock on Siesta Key, the featured images on this page.)

This year, King tides are scheduled for Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is sponsoring a photo contest in the Sarasota-Bradenton area with prizes including free passes to state parks. They’re asking people to mark their calendars with the highest and lowest tides (visit for the site closest to you), then take photos near identifiable landmarks, and try to include some form of measurement like a tide gauge or a person for scale.

To enter the SBEP contest, post your photos to Instagram and tag @sarasotaestuary or email your photos directly to by June 2, including your name, date, time and location in the post or email.

In the Tampa Bay region, post photos to the TBEP Facebook page at, or tag them with the hashtag #TBKingTide on Instagram or Twitter.


More about King Tides

King Tides occur when the moon is at its closest point to the earth. They usually coincide with spring high tides which happen about every two weeks when the earth, sun and moon are aligned.

Because the moon’s orbit around the earth is elliptical, the moon’s gravitational pull changes. When the moon and the sun align, tides are approximately 20% higher than normal.

With rising sea levels – already increasing at an estimated inch per decade in Tampa Bay – King tides show where water is most likely to become an issue. In 1962, a storm surge combined with a King tide and inundated the entire Atlantic coastline, killing 40 people and causing over $500 million in damage.

Originally published May 22, 2017

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