Tidal range is the height difference between high tide and low tide. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and Sun and the rotation of Earth. Tidal range depends on time and location.
Larger tidal range occur during spring tides (spring range), when the gravitational forces of both the Moon and Sun are aligned (syzygy), reinforcing each other in the same direction (new moon) or in opposite directions (full moon). The largest annual tidal range can be expected around the time of the equinox if it coincides with a spring tide. Spring tides occur at the second and fourth (last) quarters of the Moon's phases.
By contrast, during neap tides, when the Moon and Sun's gravitational force vectors act in quadrature (making a right angle to the Earth's orbit), the difference between high and low tides (neap range) is smallest. Neap tides occur at the first and third quarters of the Moon's phases.
Tidal data for coastal areas is published by national hydrographic offices. The data is based on astronomical phenomena and is predictable. Sustained storm-force winds blowing from one direction combined with low barometric pressure can increase the tidal range, particularly in narrow bays. Such weather-related effects on the tide can cause ranges in excess of predicted values and can cause localized flooding. These weather-related effects are not calculable in advance.
Mean tidal range is calculated as the difference between mean high water (i.e., the average high tide level) and mean low water (the average low tide level).
The typical tidal range in the open ocean is about 0.6 metres (2 feet) (blue and green on the map on the right). Closer to the coast, this range is much greater. Coastal tidal ranges vary globally and can differ anywhere from near zero to over 16 m (52 ft). The exact range depends on the volume of water adjacent to the coast, and the geography of the basin the water sits in. Larger bodies of water have higher ranges, and the geography can act as a funnel amplifying or dispersing the tide. The world's largest tidal range of 16.3 metres (53.5 feet) occurs in Bay of Fundy, Canada, a similar range is experienced at Ungava Bay also in Canada and the United Kingdom regularly experiences tidal ranges up to 15 metres (49 feet) between England and Wales in the Bristol Channel.
The fifty coastal locations with the largest tidal ranges worldwide are listed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.
Some of the smallest tidal ranges occur in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Caribbean Seas. A point within a tidal system where the tidal range is almost zero is called an amphidromic point.
The tidal range has been classified as: