Tide gauge

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A tide gauge Tidal gauge dsc06189.jpg
A tide gauge
The tide gauge in Kronstadt, Russia Kronstadt tide gauge.JPG
The tide gauge in Kronstadt, Russia

A tide gauge (also known as mareograph, marigraph, [2] or sea-level recorder [3] ) is a device for measuring the change in sea level relative to a vertical datum.[ citation needed ]

Sea level Average level for the surface of the ocean at any given geographical position on the planetary surface

Mean sea level (MSL) is an average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical datum – a standardised geodetic datum – that is used, for example, as a chart datum in cartography and marine navigation, or, in aviation, as the standard sea level at which atmospheric pressure is measured to calibrate altitude and, consequently, aircraft flight levels. A common and relatively straightforward mean sea-level standard is instead the midpoint between a mean low and mean high tide at a particular location.

Vertical datum reference surface for vertical positions

A vertical datum or height datum is a reference surface for vertical positions, such as the elevations of Earth features including terrain, bathymetry, water level, and man-made structures. Vertical datums are either: tidal, based on sea levels; gravimetric, based on a geoid; or geodetic, based on the same ellipsoid models of the Earth used for computing horizontal datums.



Sensors continuously record the height of the water level with respect to a height reference surface close to the geoid. Water enters the device by the bottom pipe (far end of the tube, see picture), and electronic sensors measure its height and send the data to a tiny computer.[ citation needed ]

Water level or gauge height or stage is the elevation of the free surface of a stream, lake or reservoir relative to a specified vertical datum.

Geoid irregular surface approximating the mean sea level

The geoid is the shape that the ocean surface would take under the influence of the gravity and rotation of Earth alone, if other influences such as winds and tides were absent. This surface is extended through the continents. According to Gauss, who first described it, it is the "mathematical figure of the Earth", a smooth but irregular surface whose shape results from the uneven distribution of mass within and on the surface of Earth. It can be known only through extensive gravitational measurements and calculations. Despite being an important concept for almost 200 years in the history of geodesy and geophysics, it has been defined to high precision only since advances in satellite geodesy in the late 20th century.

Historical data are available for about 1,450 stations worldwide, of which about 950 have provided updates to the global data center since January 2010. [4] At some places records cover centuries, for example in Amsterdam where data dating back to 1700 is available. [5]

Amsterdam Capital city of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands, with a population of 866,737, 1,380,872 in the urban area, and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland.

When it comes to estimating the greater ocean picture, new modern tide gauges can often be improved upon by using satellite data.[ citation needed ]

Tide gauges are used to measure tides and quantify the size of tsunamis. The measurements make it possible to derive the mean sea level. Using this method, sea level slopes up to several 0.1 m/1000 km and more have been detected.[ citation needed ]

<i>Tsunami</i> Series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water

A tsunami or tidal wave, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

A tsunami can be detected when the sea level begins to rise, although warnings from seismic activity can be more useful.[ citation needed ]


Sea-level measurements were made using simple measuring poles or "tide staffs" until around 1830, when self-recording gauges with mechanical floats and stilling wells were introduced. [6]

Tidal poles and float gauges were the primary means of sea-level measurement for over 150 years and continue to operate at some locations today. While still part of modern-day tide gauge instrumentation, these technologies have since been superseded by pressure gauges, acoustic/ultrasonic gauges, and radar gauges.[ citation needed ]

The following types of tide gauges have been used historically: [7]

Common applications

Interior view of Cascais Tide Gauge showing data recording equipment CascaisTideGauge Interior.jpg
Interior view of Cascais Tide Gauge showing data recording equipment

Tide gauges have a practical application in the shipping and fishing industries where low or high tide levels can hinder or prohibit access to shallow bays or locations with bridges. An example is the Cascais tide gauge in Portugal, which was originally installed because of the sand bar in the River Tagus that causes difficulties for shipping entering Lisbon port. Because of similar problems many industries have installed private tide gauges in ports around the world, and also rely on government agencies (such as NOAA).

Data collected from tide gauges is also of interest to scientists measuring global weather patterns, the mean sea water level, and trends - notably those potentially associated with global warming.

Modern gauges

In recent years new technologies have developed allowing for real-time, remote tide information to be published online via a solar powered wireless connection to a tide sensor. Acoustic/ultrasonic sensors [8] have already been deployed to great effect and the data is regularly broadcast via Twitter and also displayed online. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Telemetry data and measurements transferred from a remote location to receiving equipment for monitoring

Telemetry is an automated communications process by which measurements and other data are collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure. Systems that need external instructions and data to operate require the counterpart of telemetry, telecommand.

Altimeter meteorological instrumentation

An altimeter or an altitude meter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth under water.

Rain gauge meteorological instrumentation

A rain gauge is an instrument used by meteorologists and hydrologists to gather and measure the amount of liquid precipitation over an area in a predefined period of time.

Stream gauge locations used to monitor surface water flow

A stream gauge, streamgage or gauging station is a location used by hydrologists or environmental scientists to monitor and test terrestrial bodies of water. Hydrometric measurements of water level surface elevation ("stage") and/or volumetric discharge (flow) are generally taken and observations of biota and water quality may also be made. The location of gauging stations are often found on topographical maps. Some gauging stations are highly automated and may include telemetry capability transmitted to a central data logging facility.

Bathymetry The study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors

Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors. In other words, bathymetry is the underwater equivalent to hypsometry or topography. The name comes from Greek βαθύς (bathus), "deep", and μέτρον (metron), "measure". Bathymetric charts are typically produced to support safety of surface or sub-surface navigation, and usually show seafloor relief or terrain as contour lines and selected depths (soundings), and typically also provide surface navigational information. Bathymetric maps may also use a Digital Terrain Model and artificial illumination techniques to illustrate the depths being portrayed. The global bathymetry is sometimes combined with topography data to yield a Global Relief Model. Paleobathymetry is the study of past underwater depths.

Pressure sensor measurement device

A pressure sensor is a device for pressure measurement of gases or liquids. Pressure is an expression of the force required to stop a fluid from expanding, and is usually stated in terms of force per unit area. A pressure sensor usually acts as a transducer; it generates a signal as a function of the pressure imposed. For the purposes of this article, such a signal is electrical.

Level sensors detect the level of liquids and other fluids and fluidized solids, including slurries, granular materials, and powders that exhibit an upper free surface. Substances that flow become essentially horizontal in their containers because of gravity whereas most bulk solids pile at an angle of repose to a peak. The substance to be measured can be inside a container or can be in its natural form. The level measurement can be either continuous or point values. Continuous level sensors measure level within a specified range and determine the exact amount of substance in a certain place, while point-level sensors only indicate whether the substance is above or below the sensing point. Generally the latter detect levels that are excessively high or low.

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level is a repository for tide gauge data used in the measurement of long-term sea level change. The PSMSL is based at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool, England. It was founded in 1933 as the IUGG Mean Sea Level Committee, and adopted as a Permanent Service of the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 1958.

Ultrasonic transducer

Ultrasonic transducers or ultrasonic sensors are a type of acoustic sensor divided into three broad categories: transmitters, receivers and transceivers. Transmitters convert electrical signals into ultrasound, receivers convert ultrasound into electrical signals, and transceivers can both transmit and receive ultrasound.

OSTM/Jason-2 International Earth observation satellite mission

OSTM/Jason-2, or the Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite, is an international Earth observation satellite mission that continues the sea surface height measurements begun in 1992 by the joint NASA/CNES TOPEX/Poseidon mission and followed by the NASA/CNES Jason-1 mission launched in 2001.

Geophysical MASINT is a branch of Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) that involves phenomena transmitted through the earth and manmade structures including emitted or reflected sounds, pressure waves, vibrations, and magnetic field or ionosphere disturbances.

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Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is an autonomous organization of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, located in Pragathi Nagar, Hyderabad. ESSO-INCOIS was established as an autonomous body in 1999 under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO). ESSO- INCOIS is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focussed research.

Ocean surface topography The shape of the ocean surface relative to the geoid

Ocean surface topography or sea surface topography, also called ocean dynamic topography, are highs and lows on the ocean surface, similar to the hills and valleys of Earth's land surface depicted on a topographic map. These variations are expressed in terms of average sea surface height (SSH) relative to the Earth's geoid. The main purpose of measuring ocean surface topography is to understand the large-scale ocean circulation.

In the field of industrial ultrasonic testing, ultrasonic thickness measurement (UTM) is a method of performing non-destructive measurement (gauging) of the local thickness of a solid element basing on the time taken by the ultrasound wave to return to the surface. This type of measurement is typically performed with an ultrasonic thickness gauge.

Cascais tide gauge building in Cascais, Lisbon District, Portugal

The Cascais tide gauge was the first tide gauge installed in Portugal and dates back to 1882. It is situated in Cascais Municipality, Lisbon District. It was one of the first systems of sea-level data collection installed on the coast of Europe and is still in use.

A level probe is a special pressure transmitter for level measurement of liquids in open vessels and tanks. Level probes are submerged directly into the liquid and remain permanently floating above the tank bottom. The measurement is carried out according to the hydrostatic principle. The gravity pressure of the liquid column causes an expansion of the pressure-sensitive sensor element, which converts the measured pressure into an electrical standard signal. The connecting cable of level probes has several tasks to fulfil. In addition to the power supply and signal forwarding, the level sensor is held in place by the cable. The cable also includes a thin air tube that directs the ambient air pressure to the level probe. Level probes are therefore usually designed as relative pressure sensors, which use the current ambient pressure as the zero point of their measuring range.


  1. "The Kronstadt sea-gauge". Your Guide in St Petersburg. Retrieved 26 April 2019. With explanatory diagram showing Lea-type float gauge and stilling-well.
  2. International Tsunami Information Center. "4. Tide, Mareograph, Sea Level". UNESCO.
  3. Ian Shennan, Antony J. Long, Benjamin P. Horton, eds. (2015). Handbook of Sea-Level Research. Wiley. p. 557. ISBN   978-1-118-45257-8.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  4. "Obtaining Tide Gauge Data". Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level. PSMSL. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  5. "Other Long Records not in the PSMSL Data Set". PSMSL. Retrieved 2015-05-11.
  6. Tide gauge history UK National Oceanographic Centre Archived 2015-08-24 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "History of tide gauges". Tide Observation. Geospatial Information Authority of Japan . Retrieved 2014-04-19.
  8. "Remote Monitoring a MaxSonar®".
  9. "ioBridge Apps - Ockway Bay Tide Levels".

Further reading