Science Questions

Why does the Mediterranean have small tides?

Tue, 7th Jan 2014

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Les asked:

Why does the Mediterranean have small tides?


earthDave - So, what Dominic was telling you earlier was simplication, because anything anyone ever tells is a simplication. So, Dominic’s model worked beautifully for the world which we just covered in water then you get two bulges which move around the world. But actually, the world isn’t. We’ve got lots of continents in north, south around the world. So actually, what happens is that as the Earth turns under the moon, the water in the Atlantic gets pulled towards one side of the Atlantic. Then it gets – as it goes around, it gets pulled to the other side of the Atlantic. So, the water just sloshes back and forth across the Atlantic and you get this big wave travelling across the Atlantic. When it hits the sides of the oceans, it piles up and it get higher and the same way as the wave breaks and it gets higher. The Mediterranean is much smaller.  It doesn’t have this wave-breaking effect.  So, you see it don't get really these high tides.

Chris - Thank you very much, Dave.


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The Atlantic has an average depth of about 3,300 meters.
The Pacific has an average depth of about 4,300 meters.
The Mediterranean has an average depth of about 1,500 meters. 

So, not only is the basin broader, but it is also deeper, and thus a larger column of water affected by the moon's gravity. CliffordK, Tue, 7th Jan 2014

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