Low and high tides. What are they and why do they happen?

Nautical Channel
07 Sep 2023
NEWS | Marine Life

Low and high tides are terms used to describe the tide levels in a body of water, such as an ocean, sea or river. These terms are related to the phenomenon of tides.

In this article, we will unravel the mystery behind tides, specifically low tides and high tides, and explain why they happen.

First of all, a brief introduction on how tides work. Tides are regular changes in water level in bodies of water, such as oceans, seas and rivers.

These changes are caused mainly by the gravitational forces of the Sun and especially the Moon. The influence of the Moon is much more powerful because of its proximity to our planet.

To help us understand what is meant by gravitational forces, an example in which it is visualized in a simpler way. Gravity is like an invisible rope that pulls things towards them. The gravitational influence of the Moon and the Sun on the Earth means that these two elements (sun and moon) use their rope to pull the water in the oceans and seas, and this causes the water level to rise and fall, creating the tides. It is as if the Earth and the water move according to how the Moon and the Sun pull the rope!

Low tide

Low tides represent the lowest point in the tidal cycle. They occur when the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun are at right angles to the Earth, which reduces their combined gravitational influence. During low tide, the water recedes, exposing more of the seabed or river bottom, and beaches may widen due to the receding water.

Low tide occurs approximately twice a day and is associated with low tide hours. It recurs approximately every 12 hours and 25 minutes in most coastal locations. Low tide is the ideal time for fishermen and divers.

High tide

High tides occur at the peak of the tidal cycle. They occur when the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun align in such a way that their effects add up, causing an increase in the height of the water at the coast. During high tide, the water rises and approaches the coast, covering areas that were exposed at low tide.

The high tide process happens twice a day, we will have two phases of high tide in a 12h interval.

The exact time between high tide and low tide is approximately 6 hours and 12 hours and 25 minutes between each high tide.

High tide is an ideal time for activities such as sailing, water sports and deep sea fishing, as the rising water level allows easier access to areas that might be inaccessible during low tide. It is also an important and interesting time for surfers, as waves tend to break closer to shore.

How to know the exact time of low and high tide by location?

As we have already mentioned, there are many people who are aware of the low and high tide times to carry out their activities. That is why there are many websites where you can check all the information about the tides.

Here is an example of the beach in Saint-Florent, Corsica, France.

Tides, including high and low tides, have a significant impact on marine life, navigation, fishing, beach recreation and other water-related activities. They are also a palpable manifestation of celestial influence on Earth.

In short, low and high tides are part of a fascinating and continually changing natural phenomenon that reflects the gravitational dance between the Earth, the Moon and the Sun.

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