American Oceans
low tide sunset

How Do We Monitor the Tides?

The tide is something that captures the attention of people of all ages. When going to the beach, you will frequently hear the burning question “is it high tide or low tide?” from children, and will watch older audiences move their chairs away from the impending waves as they get closer.

Luckily, researchers have figured out a way to monitor tides. This way, not only will our curiosity be quenched when we head to the shore for a day, but our safety will also be more concrete with the knowledge of how the tide is moving.

So how exactly are tides monitored, and what can we learn from them?

How To Monitor Tides

tide monitor system In the past, tides were measured and monitored using mechanical systems and recording devices, which would often float in the water.  However, present day tide monitors utilize electronics and acoustics on an electric system to monitor the tides.

Using this modern system, an audio signal is sent out The amount of time it takes for the signal to travel back after reaching the ocean surface is then recorded. 

These new monitors are controlled by satellites, which take the recorded information and transfer it to the headquarters of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Data is collected every six minutes and transferred every hour. 

One fun fact is that the satellites don’t just transfer information to NOAA hourly, but also to sites on the internet! This way, everybody who is interested in the tides can obtain that data as it’s happening and just as quickly as the actual researchers!

Why Is Monitoring Tides Important?

Tides may be important for beachgoers on a superficial level. After all, it is fun to watch the tide move throughout the day and change your activities accordingly!

However, there are two other huge reasons why monitoring tides is important.

Environmental Safety

sunny day floodScientists study how the tides change, not just throughout the day or their cycles throughout the year, but how they’re changing over a longer period of time. 

Abnormally high tides are proof of climate change and global warming, which is causing sea levels to rise. In fact, there is a name for when tides get so high that they disrupt the area by the shore with flooding: sunny-day floods. 

These floods occur without a storm nearby, and often disrupt the daily lives of people who live by the ocean. By 2050, some areas are projected to have 180 days of sunny-day floods every year, which is 15 times the amount the locations have currently.

These floods could destroy the habitats of plants and animals that live by the shore, decrease tourism, negatively impact freshwater sources, and cause destruction to buildings. Despite the happy-sounding name, these floods and the environmental consequences they stem from ( and cause) could drastically change how we view the shore.

Commercial Reasons

For workers in the fishing or marine engineering industry, the tide is not just a fun fact, but something that has a huge impact on success and livelihood.

Fishermen use tides to better navigate their boats through different currents that change as the tide does. The knowledge of the tide can also help workers know where the fish are and what kind of fish will be available during different times of the day.

Engineers working on marine science or construction projects need to be constantly aware of the tide throughout the day, as it could greatly impact their projects. If something is being built, you want it to be during a time of year when the tides will be the most out of the way.


boats at low tideMonitoring tides is not only fun to do (for both researchers and beachgoers!) but imperative to helping multiple industries that work at and around the shore. Data collection is also necessary for looking into future environmental issues that abnormal tides could cause. 

So the next time you go to the beach and think, “Is it high tide, or low tide?” remember that this question is so important that scientists have determined it is necessary to have an answer every six minutes!

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