1902 Encyclopedia > Tides > [Progress of the Tide Wave...] Cotidal Lines of the World

(Part 41)


41. Cotidal Lines of the World

No recent revisal of cotidal lines has been made with the aid of the great mass of tidal data which is now being accumulated, and we therefore reproduce (fig. 6) the chart of the world prepared by Sir George Airy for his article on "Tides and Waves." The parts of the world for which data are wanting are omitted. The Roman numerals upon the cotidal lines denote the hour in Greenwich time of high water on the day of new or full moon. Airy remarks (§§ 575-584) that the cotidal lines of the North Atlantic are accurately drawn, that those of the South Atlantic are doubtful, and in the Pacific east of New Zealand are almost conjectural. The embodiment of recent observations in a cotidal chart would necessitate some modification of these statements.

FIG. 6. -- Cotidal lines of the world.
(Click here to see a much larger version of this map)

When a free wave runs into shallow water it travels with less velocity and its height is increased. This is observable in the flexure and crowding of the cotidal lines near continents and oceanic islands, as, for example, about the Azores, the Bermudas, and the coast of South America. The velocity of the tide-wave gives good information as to the depth of the sea. In the North Sea it appears to travel at about 45 miles an hour, which corresponds to a depth of 140 feet, and we know that the depth along the deeper channel is greater and along the sides less than this. In the Atlantic the wave passes over 90° of latitude, from the southern to the northern one o’clock line, in twelve hours, that is at the rate of 520 miles an hour. If the Atlantic tide could be considered as a free wave generated by the Pacific tide, this velocity would correspond to a depth of 18,000 feet. Airy considers, however, that the Atlantic forms too large a basin to permit the neglect of the direct tidal action, and thinks that the tides of this ocean derive extremely little of their character from the Pacific.

"There is another consideration," he says, "which must not be left out of sight. It is that, supposing the cotidal lines to be accurately what they profess to be— namely, the lines connecting all the points at which high water is simultaneous—they may, nevertheless, with a compound series of tide waves, not at all represent the ridge of the tide-wave which actually runs over the ocean. Thus an eye at a great distance, capable of observing the swells of the tide-waves, might see one huge longitudinal ridge extending from the mouth of the Amazon to the sea beyond Iceland, making high water at one time from Cape de Verde to the North Cape, and at another time from Florida to Greenland, and another ridge transversal to the former, travelling from the coast of Guiana to the northern sea; and the cotidal lines which we have traced may depend simply on the combination of these waves. It does not appear likely that we can ever ascertain whether it is so or not; but it is certainly possible that the original waves may have these or similar forms; and if so it is vain for us to attempt entirely to explain the tides of the Atlantic."

He sums up the discussion of the chart by saying:—

"Upon the whole, therefore, we are driven to the conclusion that we cannot at all explain the cause of the form of the cotidal lines in the ocean, so far as they have been traced with any probability. And, supposing us to know with tolerable certainty those corresponding to the semi-diurnal tide, we cannot at all predict those which should hold for the diurnal tide."

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