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tide

Introduction

tide, alternate and regular rise and fall of sea level in oceans and other large bodies of water. These changes are caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and, to a lesser extent, of the sun on the earth. More generally, tides are the deformations of celestial bodies from a perfectly spherical shape that result from stresses created by their mutual gravitational attraction (see gravitation). Another way of viewing the tide is as the longest possible ocean wave, one which stretches all the way around the earth. The tide regarded as a wave is sometimes referred to as a tidal wave, although this term has been commonly applied to the shock wave propagated by an underwater earthquake. (To avoid confusion, such shock waves are now called tsunamis, their Japanese name, or seismic sea waves.) Numerous schemes have been proposed to harness the earth's tides, especially in various estuaries, as a practical source of power, but none as yet have proved economically or technologically feasible.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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