Low Tides High Temperatures

Mother Nature is going to extremes. Blue skies, instead of our usual pre-4th mists; high temperatures, and a semi-drought browning lawns; and a low tide thanks to the full moon and the solstice lining up nicely. What do islanders do? Well, many get outside to watch it all go by, with proper protections, of course – then sneak back inside.

These are things covered in this blog before, but each on its own because temperatures and tides don’t care about each other. This weekend is different.

Pick the right time to meet the tide and it can be a long walk from the shoreline. Measure it in fractions (or more) of a mile and make the task easier than trying to guess the number of feet involved. In the summer the low tides tend to happen around noon. It’s a different experience in winter when the low tides hit minimum near midnight. The weather usually isn’t very cooperative then, either. 

This summer’s low tide was enough to lengthen the commute for many creatures like crabs who follow that tide line because that’s where they can safely feed. The birds count on that cycle with the fish, too. Unfortunately for some that rely on the water, Whidbey’s broad tidelands can strand them in the sunshine. There they sit hoping the water returns before the sea gulls notice them. Nature balances. Fortunately, tidelands are rarely totally flat, so shallow stretches trap water, too. Don’t be surprised if your footsteps along the edge startle schools of anxious animals splashing for cover in the eel grass.

A stranded Lion’s Mane jellyfish

Wandering the tidelands can be entertaining, just remember to watch the clock if a rising tide could cut you off from your otherwise dry return. Swimming does happen. Getting stuck in the mud happens, too; so be careful about where you step and how you pick your path.

messy proof that the channel in Cultus Bay isn’t even knee height (for this guy who’s over 6′ tall)

Also around noon the temperatures rise; but they don’t peak until a few hours later. This year comes with a temperature alert. Some places over the next few days are expected to reach records. Over the next few days parts of the region will be under Excessive Heat Watches. Surprisingly to some, that’s true for Seattle, but not for Whidbey. Islands in the Salish Sea are surrounded by natural air conditioners. The air may be in the 80s or 90s, but the water is resolutely near 50F. Plunge your toes in that! That also means the mainland can be 10F degrees hotter, or from a different perspective, the islands can be 10F cooler. Closer to the water is best. Get far enough inland and the heat returns.


Seattle heat peaking at 85F Friday, then higher Saturday
Whidbey Island peaking at 73F Friday, then more than 12F lower Saturday

With so few hot days there are very few air conditioners, except for the heat pumps which seem to make the switch from heat to cool simple. A mix can be nice, sit inside in a house with as much shade as possible, even if you have to install it with blinds and awnings; then wander around in the light and the warmth, with the right hat, clothes, sunblock and whatever you need. 

Regardless of the tides or the temperature, don’t be surprised to see the kids not waiting for the lowest low tides or the optimum balance of shade and sun. They just run. It’s a good thing parents were invented, too.

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