Why Are Tides Important?

Scientists believe lunar tides help move heat from the equator to the poles, a pattern which brings cyclical warm and cool temperatures that create ice ages and assist with speciation among life forms. Tides force species to evolve because these relatively small coastal areas change rapidly. Without evolution, many marine species would have died out, and entire ecosystems may have been eliminated.

Tides are caused by the gravitational attraction of the sun and moon upon the Earth. These forces create regular changes in coastal water depths. Fish move along tidal boundaries, as does their food. Fisherman, construction engineers and military vessels need to know when tides move. Beachgoers and surfers on vacation also utilize information about tides.

Fluctuations in water heights depend upon the position of the sun and moon relative to the planet. Tides are normally greatest at the new moon and full moon. Because solar and lunar cycles can be predicted, so can the tides. Anyone who relies on the tides needs to know predicted ebbs and flows to navigate coastal waters.

Fluctuations in coastal waters are of particular interest to scientists studying global warming. As water levels increase, tides may become more extreme in the future. Some areas currently out of reach of tidal forces may eventually be affected if water levels rise due to polar melting.