British coastlines could see waves of up to 50ft this weekend as the new Moon and high spring tides meet Atlantic storms

People watch and photograph enormous waves as they break on Porthcawl harbour in South WalesHuge 50ft waves which could bring storm surges and flooding to Britain are expected this weekend with coastal communities braced for the biggest tides in two decades.

Emergency teams are on standby in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Kent and Sussex as high spring tides coincide with Atlantic storms and the new Moon, which is unusually close to the Earth at the moment.

Waves could reach 50ft in height, the biggest for at least 20 years along many stretches of coast.

The Environment Agency said “The current forecast shows that the most significant water levels are likely to occur on the morning tide of Saturday 21st February and there is a possibility of a flood warning being issued for this tide.

“We will monitor the situation and will update this information and issue further warnings as required.”

The huge waves are being partially triggered by the new Moon which is nearing its closest point to Earth in its 18.5 year orbit, causing an increased gravitational pull.

Although astronomers said it would not produce a ‘supertide’ they said that it would cause higher tides than usual.

Dr Edward Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: “The Moon is slightly closer than normal so you would expect waves to be higher than usual.

“The local weather is going to be a more important factor. If rivers and floodplains are already swollen then that could cause problems, but it’s all about the local geography.

“We’re not going see tsunamis but it could give an extra kick to the tides.”

The Moon alignment on its own would not cause problems, but this weekend it will be coupled with stormy weather, including gales and torrential rain which is sweeping in from the Atlantic.

North Somerset Council has written to businesses and residents along the seafront warning them of the potential for flooding and detailing the measures being put in place.

Council spokesman Nick Yates said “These could be some of the highest tides seen in the Bristol Channel for the last 20 years.”

“It may be we have to lift the planks at the beginning of the pier if the weather is bad. ”

Tides will be even higher in March when the Earth, Moon and Sun exactly align

 

A Met Office spokesman said “We are expecting tides of between 14 and 14.5 metres along the Bristol Channel, perhaps up to 15 metres if there is a bit of a surge.

“Over the next couple of days we will be able to pin down the weekend forecast with more confidence.”

People have been warned to stay away from the coastlines during the high tides.

However the tides are predicted to be even higher during the spring equinox, March 21, when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up exactly, in what is known as ‘the syzygy effect,’ which increases the gravitational pull. It will also coincide with an almost complete eclipse of the Sun.

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