Mediterranean tides are more than meets the eye

Image of the Month - October 1999

Amplitude (in cm) of the principal (M2) lunar tide in the Mediterranean predicted by the CEFMO model (release 2000). (Credits Legos)

Most people associate the Mediterranean with small tides. However, this is not to say there are no tides at all. Indeed, they generate a mean variation of about 40 centimeters, but atmospheric conditions often hide the rise and fall in sea level. Headwinds or, more often, higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure attenuate the effect of these tides, sometimes making them virtually impossible to see.However, for example, the Gulf of Gabes off the coast of Tunisia has a range of nearly two meters. In other areas, such as the Adriatic and south of Sicily, tides are very small in the vicinity of amphidromic points where the tidal range is zero. The Atlantic affects tides in the Strait of Gibraltar, but its influence soon declines further east.

Altimetric measurements, coupled with in situ tide gauge readings and assimilated into models, help us predict tides with greater accuracy. Tide predictions are useful for shipping, fishing fleets, and coastal engineering.

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