At any given time, there are two high tides on the earth, the direct tide on the side facing the moon and the indirect tide on the opposite side. As the earth rotates on its axis, the location of the two diametrically opposed tidal bulges varies on the earth's surface. The earth's rotation and the moon's revolution, which have the same direction, bring each point on the earth opposite the moon once every 24 hr and 50 min. Therefore, the average interval between direct and indirect high tides is about 12 hr and 25 min. In many places along the Atlantic coasts of N America and Europe, the two daily low tides are of nearly equal duration and magnitude, called semidiurnal tides.
In certain shallow seas and narrow estuaries, the tides differ from this simple pattern. For example, in certain regions such as the Pacific coast of N America, one of the two daily tides is appreciably higher than the other or the interval between successive tides is unequal; these are called mixed tides. In other regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, there is only one high tide per day called a diurnal tide, with a period of 24 hr and 50 min.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.