What are Tides?

Regular rises and falls in the sea level are known as tides. Some people, who love the water, love to play with high and low tides. Others who are not so daring prefer to watch from a distance. While a tidal flow can be fascinating to watch and play with, it’s great to know what causes them. 

The moon is the primary element in the creation of tides, closely followed by the sun. Every day, these two bodies exert a gravitational pull on the earth. This pull drags water sideways across the planet’s surface.

This periodic change in the sea levels as the result of gravitational pull is very predictable and regular.

If you want to learn more about tides, keep reading, and don’t forget to share this with your family and friends.

What Are Tides? 

Some tides worth mentioning include the spring tides, neap tides, and king tides.

Spring and Neap Tides: Tides at their maximum level are called high tides. The highest tides are called spring tides and usually occur whenever the earth, sun, and moon are in a row. Spring tides happen at every full or new moon, which is every two weeks.

Tides at their minimum level are known as neap tides. These tides form whenever the moon, sun, and earth are at right angles. Whenever this happens, the moon and sun pull water in two different directions. You can expect neap tides to whenever there’s a quarter or three-quarter moon.

King Tides: King Tide is a term used to describe a very high tide that comes during a new or full moon. In other words, it is an exceptionally high spring tide.

What Is the Cause of Tides? 

formation of tides

If you live close to the ocean, you must have long noticed the daily rise and fall in sea levels and how predictable these tides can be. It often begs the question, what causes tides?

High Low Tides: The moon is the principal cause of tides in the ocean. The moon and earth both have gravitational forces, which pull things to their respective centers. Gravity keeps all the planets in orbit around the sun. The earth’s gravity keeps the moon in orbit around the planet. Since the moon is much smaller than the earth, it exerts a weaker force of gravity. However, the moon is so close to the earth that the force it exerts on the earth remains significant.

As the moon’s gravity pulls on earth’s waters, it creates a tidal force. This constant pull,  causes the earth’s waters on the side of the moon to bulge out towards the moon. The gravitational pull from the moon is so strong on the earth that also pulls the earth towards the moon, creating a second bulge of water at the other side of the earth, not facing the moon. This also creates two areas with no bulge at the opposite sides of the bulges. Every part of the earth experiences a high tide the moment it rotates into the bulging water and experiences a low time when the earth rotates to the areas with no bulging water.

The Moon Affects the Tides: Even though the sun generates a considerate amount of tidal force on the earth, the moon is the main influence on the earth’s tides. 

What Are the 4 Types of Tides? 

Four basic patterns of tides are present on shorelines across the earth; they include the following:

Diurnal tide: A diurnal tide cycle has one low tide and one high tide on a lunar day (a lunar day lasts 24 h and 50 min). One can find these types of tides around the Gulf of Mexico.

Semidiurnal tide: In a region with the semidiurnal tide, two approximately equal-sized high and low tides occur each day. The areas where one can find this type of tide include places around the Eastern coast of North America.

Meteorological Tides: Meteorological tides describe all tides brought on by a change in atmospheric conditions such as rainfall, barometric pressure, wind, etc.  

Mixed Semidiurnal Tide:  An area has semidiurnal tides if it experiences two differently sized low and high tides every lunar day.  You can find this kind of tidal flow along the Western coast of North America. 

How Frequent Are Tides?

Spring and Neap Tides

High and low tides occur at intervals of about six hours and about 13 minutes. The forces exerted on the earth by the moon and sun, among other factors directly influence the frequency at which tides occur. 

Many coastal regions can count on having two tidal cycles every 24 hours and 50 minutes.  However, there are a few exceptions. A lunar day is the time it takes the moon to make a lap around the earth.

FAQ’s About Tides  

These are a few frequently asked questions about tides in general.

How Many High and Low Tides Occur Each Day?

Most coastal areas experience two low and two high tides daily. The two high tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart from each other. 

Why Do We Have Tides?

We owe the tides we experience to two great forces; the moon’s gravitational force that pulls on the earth and the planet’s rotational force.

Why Do We Have 2 Tides a Day?

Most parts of the earth experience two tides daily because the planet rotates through two tidal bulges every 24 hours and 50 minutes.

How Do Tides Affect Humans?

Low tide can be exceptionally dangerous, especially to children and inexperienced swimmers. It is better to move away when you see them coming because you may get caught in a deadly wave, a whirlpool, or a riptide channel.

If you are on a boat when a low tide comes,  you may find the boat stuck, or worse, wrecked. 

Conversely, high tides can cause coastal flooding or endanger buildings. But these kinds of occurrences are not common thanks to the fact that most houses are built beyond the range of high tides.  Under certain circumstances, high tides can also carry people or property off from the shore.

Lastly, tides have a huge effect on sea life. This indirectly affects the humans who consume sea life. Various types of sea life living around the shores depend on the changing tides for survival.

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