The tidal range is the vertical difference between the high tide and the succeeding low tide. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. The tidal range is not constant, but changes depending on where the sun and the moon are.
The most extreme tidal range occurs around the time of the full or new moons, when the gravitational forces of both the Sun and Moon are in phase, reinforcing each other in the same direction (new moon), or are exactly the opposite phase (full). This type of tide is known as a spring tide. During neap tides, when the Moon and Sun's gravitational force vectors act in quadrature (making a right angle to the Earth's orbit), the difference between high and low tides is smaller. Neap tides occur during the first and last quarters of the moon's phases. The largest annual tidal range can be expected around the time of the equinox, if coincidental with a spring tide.
Tidal data for coastal areas is published by the national hydrographic service of the country concerned. Tidal data is based on astronomical phenomena and is predictable. Storm force winds blowing from a steady direction for a prolonged time interval combined with low barometric pressure can increase the tidal range, particularly in narrow bays. Such weather-related effects on the tide, which can cause ranges in excess of predicted values and can cause localized flooding, are not calculable in advance.
The typical tidal range in the open ocean is about 0.6 metres (2 feet). Closer to the coast, this range is much greater. Coastal tidal ranges vary globally and can differ anywhere from near zero to over 11 metres (38 feet). The exact range depends on the volume of water adjacent to the coast, and the geography of the basin the water sits in. Larger bodies of water have higher ranges, and the geography can act as a funnel amplifying or dispersing the tide. The world's largest tidal range of 11.7 metres (38.4 feet) occurs at Burntcoat Head in the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada. The Bristol Channel, between England and Wales in the United Kingdom, regularly experiences tidal ranges of up to 9 metres. The top 50 locations with the largest tidal ranges world-wide are listed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.
The tidal range has been classified as:
- Micromareal, when the tidal range is lower than 2 metres.
- Mesomareal, when the tidal range is between 2 metres and 4 metres.
- Macromareal, when the tidal range is higher than 4 metres.
- Hydrographic and Oceanographic Agencies
- NOAA. "FAQ2 Where are the highest tides?". Retrieved 27 Jan 2011.
- NOAA. "It appears that the range of the tides gets larger the further the location from the equator. What causes this??". Retrieved 27 Jan 2011.
- Masselink, G.; Short, A. D. (1993). "The effect of tidal range on beach morphodynamics and morphology: a conceptual beach model". Journal of Coastal Research 9 (3): 785–800. ISSN 0749-0208.