Interpreting and analyzing King Tide in Tuvalu

Lin, C.-C.; Ho, C.-R.; Cheng, Y.-H.

The spatial and temporal distribution of sea-level rise has the potential to cause regional flooding in certain areas, and low-lying island countries are severely at risk. Tuvalu, an atoll country located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, has been inundated by this regional flooding for decades. Tuvaluans call this regional flooding phenomenon King Tide, a term not clearly defined, blaming it for loss of life and property in announcing their intention to migrate. In this study, we clarified and interpreted King Tide, and analyzed the factors of King Tide in Tuvalu. Using tide gauge and topographical data, we estimated that 3.2 m could be considered the threshold of King Tide, which implied half of the island of Tuvalu was flooded with seawater. This threshold is consistent with the finding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that King Tide events occur once or twice a year. We surveyed 28 King Tide events to analyze the factors of regional flooding. Tide gauge and satellite altimeter data from 1993 to 2012 were cross-validated and indicated that the King Tide phenomenon is significantly related to the warm-water effect. Warm water contributed to the King Tide phenomenon by an average of 5.1% and a maximum of 7.8%. The height of King Tide is affected by the combined factors of spring tide, storm surge, climate variability, and, significantly, by the warm-water effect.

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Lin, C.-C. / Ho, C.-R. / Cheng, Y.-H.: Interpreting and analyzing King Tide in Tuvalu. 2014. Copernicus Publications.

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