Explain the alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth that results in spring tides and the effect that it has on the tidal range.
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The moon has mass, therefore it has gravity. As the moon orbits the earth, its gravitational pull not only keeps the moon from departing its orbit due to centripetal force, it also pulls the ocean water around with it.
A spring tide is when the Moon, Earth, and Sun fall in a straight line. These spring tides occur twice each month, during the full and new Moon, and we notice the greatest difference between high and low tide water levels. If the Moon is at perigee, the closest it approaches Earth in its orbit, the tides are especially high and low.
When the Sun and Moon form a right angle, as when we see a half moon, their pulls fight each other and we notice a smaller difference between high and low tides. These are called neap tides.
Factors such as the path the Moon takes around the Earth, our planet's tilt, the water's depth, and the geometry of the tidal basin affect tides. Therefore, not all coasts experience two high and two low tides each day.
Semi-diurnal tides occur twice a day. This means a body of water with semi-diurnal tides, like the Atlantic Ocean, will have two high tides and two low tides in one day. Diurnal tides occur once a day. A body of water with diurnal tides, like the Gulf of Mexico, has only one high tide and one low tide in a 25-hour period. Some bodies of water, including parts of the Pacific Basin, have mixed tides, where a single low tide follows two high tides.