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Tides and its types and formation

All celestial bodies exert a gravitational force on each other. These forces of attraction between earth and other celestial bodies (mainly moon and sun) cause periodical variations in the level of a water surface, commonly known as tides.

Tides and its types and formation


All celestial bodies exert a gravitational force on each other. These forces of attraction between earth and other celestial bodies (mainly moon and sun) cause periodical variations in the level of a water surface, commonly known as tides. There are several theories about the tides but none adequately explains all the phenomenon of tides. However, the commonly used theory is after Newton, and is known as the equilibrium theory. According to this theory, a force of attraction exists between two celestial bodies, acting in the straight line joining the centre of masses of the two bodies, and the magnitude of this force is proportional to the product of the masses of the bodies and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. We shall apply this theory to the tides produced on earth due to the force of attraction between earth and moon. However, the following assumptions are made in the equilibrium theory :


1.The earth is covered all round by an ocean of uniform depth.


The ocean is capable of assuming instantaneously the equilibrium , required by the tide producing forces. This is possible if we neglect (i) inertia of water, (ii) viscosity of water, and (iii) force of attraction between parts of itself.

1. The Lunar Tides


shows the earth and the moon, with their centres of masses O1 and O2 respectively. Since moon is very near to the earth, it is the major tide producing force. To start with, we will ignore the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. Both earth and moon attract each other, and the force of attraction would act along O1O2. Let O be the common centre of gravity of earth and moon. The earth and moon revolve monthly about O, and due to this revolution their separate positions are maintained. The distribution of force is not uniform, but it is more for the points facing the moon and less for remote points. Due to the revolution of earth about the common centre of gravity O, centrifugal force of uniform intensity is exerted on all the particles of the earth. The direction of this centrifugal force is parallel to O1O2 and acts outward. Thus, the total force of attraction due to moon is counter-balanced by the total centrifugal force, and the earth maintains its position relative to the moon. However, since the fore of attraction is not uniform, the resultant force will very all along. The resultant forces are the tide producing          forces.  Assuming that water has no inertia and viscosity, the ocean enveloping  the earth's  surface will adjust itself to the unbalanced resultant forces, giving rise to the equilibrium.         Thus, there are two lunar tides at A and B, and two low wate positions at C and D. The tide at A is called the superior lunar tide or tide of moon's upper transit, While tide at B is called inferior or antilunar tide.


Now let us consider the earth's rotation on its axis. Assuming the moon to remain stationary, the major axis of lunar tidal equilibrium figure would maintain a constant position. Due to rotation of earth about its axis from west to east, once in 24 hours, point A would occupy successive position C, B and D at intervals of 6 h. Thus, point A would experience regular variation in the level of water. It will experience high water (tide) at intervals of 12 h and low water midway between. This interval of 6 h variation is true only if moon is assumed stationary. However, in a lunation of 29.53 days the moon makes one revolution relative to sun from the new moon to new moon. This revolution is in the same direction as the diurnal rotation of earth, and hence there are 29.53 transits of moon across a meridian in 29.53 mean solar days. This is on the assumption that the moon does this revolution in a plane passing through the equator. Thus, the interval between successive transits of moon or any meridian will be 24 h, 50.5 m. Thus, the average interval between successive high waters would be about 12 h 25 m. The interval of 24 h 50.5 m between two successive transits of moon over a meridian is called the tidal day.


2.     The Solar Tides

The phenomenon of production of tides due to force of attraction between earth and sun is


similar to the lunar tides. Thus, there will be superior solar tide and an inferior or anti-solar tide. However, sun is at a large distance from the earth and hence the tide producing force due to sun is much less.


Solar tide = 0.458 Lunar tide.


Combined effect : Spring and neap tides

Solar tide = 0.458 Lunar tide.


Above equation shows that the solar tide force is less than half the lunar tide force. However, their combined effect is important, specially at the new moon when both the sun and moon have the same celestial longitude, they cross a meridian at the same instant.


Assuming that both the sun and moon lie in the same horizontal plane passing through the


equator, the effects of both the tides are added, giving rise to maximum or spring tide of new moon. The term 'spring' does not refer to the season, but to the springing or waxing of the


moon. After the new moon, the moon falls behind the sun and crosses each meridian 50 minutes later each day. In after 7 days, the difference between longitude of the moon and that of sun becomes 90 o , and the moon is in quadrature. The crest of moon tide coincides with the trough of the solar tide, giving rise to the neap tide of the first quarter. During the neap tide, the high water level is below the average while the low water level is above the


average. After about 15 days of the start of lunation, when full moon occurs, the difference between moon's longitude and of sun's longitude is 180 o , and the moon is in opposition.


However, the crests of both the tides coincide, giving rise to spring tide of full moon. In about 22 days after the start of lunation, the difference in longitudes of the moon and the sun becomes 270 o and neap tide of third quarter is formed. Finally, when the moon reaches to its new moon position, after about 29 days of the previous new moon, both of them have the same celestial longitude and the spring tide of new moon is again formed making the beginning of another cycle of spring and neap tides.


4. Other Effects


The length of the tidal day, assumed to be 24 hours and 50.5 minutes is not constant because of (i) varying relative positions of the sun and moon, (ii) relative attraction of the sun and moon, (iii) ellipticity of the orbit of the moon (assumed circular earlier) and earth, (v) declination (or deviation from the plane of equator) of the sun and the moon, (v) effects of the


land masses and (vi) deviation of the shape of the earth from the spheroid. Due to these, the high water at a place may not occur exactly at the moon's upper or lower transit. The effect of


varying relative positions of the sun and moon gives rise to what are known as priming of tide and lagging of tide.


At the new moon position, the crest of the composite tide is under the moon and


normal tide is formed. For the positions of the moon between new moon and first quarter, the high water at any place occurs before the moon's transit, the interval between successive high


Water is less than the average of 12 hours 25 minutes and the tide is said to prime. For positions of moon between the first quarter and the full moon, the high water at any place occurs after the moon transits, the interval between successive high water is more than the average, and tide is said to lag. Similarly, between full moon and 3rd quarter position, the tide primes while between the 3rd quarter and full moon position, the tide lags. At first quarter, full moon and third quarter position of moon, normal tide occurs.


Due to the several assumptions made in the equilibrium theory, and due to several other factors affecting the magnitude and period of tides, close agreement between the results of the theory, and the actual field observations is not available. Due to obstruction of land masses, tide may be heaped up at some places. Due to inertia and viscosity of sea water,  equilibrium figure is not achieved instantaneously. Hence prediction of the tides at a place must be based largely on observations.


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