What Causes Tides?

Major reason of the tides is the gravitational pull produced on the surface of earth by the Moon and the sun. People generally associate the tides with the oceans only, but actually the whole planet (including the atmosphere) is under the effects of tidal forces. In fact, all the celestial bodies are also under the effects of tidal forces. Large volume of the water is present on planet earth; which makes the concept of tides interesting and notable. Researchers and scientists of the world have great interests about explaining the mysteries of tide formation. Even ancient writings are also available which focuses on the importance of tides.

Concept of tide formation
Our solar system is based by strong gravitational forces and rotation of all planets (including earth) also depends upon these gravitational forces. For aligned rotation of earth, gravitational forces of sun and moon play most important roles. Gravitational forces of sun and moon also induce effects on the surface of earth. Moon is much closer to earth as compared to the sun, so gravitational impact of moon is twice as strong as the impact of the sun, this fact well explains that why tides are specifically linked with the conditions of lunar days only. When moon rotates around the planet earth, with its gravitational impact, it pulls the water from the surface of earth; as a result tide formation takes place. These tidal forces are extremely strong, but thanks to the oppositely acting centrifugal forces of earth, which balances these strong tidal forces.

Types of tides

Tides can be classified into various types. But two main categories of tides are – “spring” tides and “neap” tides. In the situation of “spring tides”, moon, earth and sun get lined up in a straight row (this situation is called as “syzygy”). In this situation sun and the moon both pulls the water in same direction, as a result creation of large bulge takes place, which is called as “high tide”. On the other hand, during the “neap” tides, moon and sun get aligned at right angles, so they apply forces in opposite directions, as a result lower bulge takes place, which is celled as “low tide”. The exact difference between the low and high points of the tides is known as tidal range.

Intensity of tides depends upon their geographical locations. According to a generalized model, in open oceans tides are less interesting, but they are much more pronounced and noticeable along the shoreline. For example- places like the Mediterranean and the Caribbean shows lower ranges of tides, but the places like Canadian Bay of Fundy shows extremely high ranges of tides (higher then 15 m/ 50 feet).

Tide charts

Even the frequency of tides varies a lot. In some specific locations, tides are even diurnal i.e. one low tide and one high tide occurs every day. On the other hand, in some other zones tides are semidiurnal in nature i.e. they have two low and two high points. By analyzing the rotation patterns of moon and earth according to the certain position of sun, tide charts can be created and it is possible to predict the height and time of the tides. Tide charts are very important for deciding the navigation pathways.

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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