Navigating the Strait of Gibraltar tides

by Tidetech 4 Sep 23:34 PDT

Navigating the Strait of Gibraltar tides © Tidetech

Suppose you're familiar with oceanography and some of the more treacherous shipping routes of the world. In that case, you'll know about the challenges for the shipping industry that the Strait of Gibraltar poses. This narrow passage that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea has many elements that contribute to the complexity of tides and currents in this area, and this article explores how it all works.

From the rapid evaporation of water that exceeds the influx of water from rivers and rain to the layers of seawater, each of a different density and salinity, there are several ever-changing elements to be aware of when transiting the Strait of Gibraltar.

Here's an outline of just how and why these infamous straits are so complex to navigate.

The density of seawater in the Gibraltar Strait

One of the singular features of the Strait of Gibraltar is the Mediterranean inflow and outflow, which consists of layers of water that have different salinity (levels of salt).

The water in the Atlantic is less salty and less dense than water in the Mediterranean, and it flows eastwards into the Mediterranean through the Straits as a surface layer, about 125m deep with a speed of two to three knots.

In contrast, there is a westward outflow of heavier, colder, and more salty water, which works its way out into the Atlantic. The tidal flow will either spee....

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