Difference Between Tides and Currents

Tide vs Current 

For those who go to beaches to swim or to indulge in surfing, waves in the ocean near the coastline may be fun, but the same waves can be devastating and cause much damage to life and property at times. It is therefore in the interest of everyone going near the coastline to understand the differences between tides and currents. Despite tide and current looking similar, there are differences between the two phenomena that will be discussed in this article.


Tides are the waves formed in the water of the ocean because of the gravitational; pull of the moon. It is like the gravitational pull is picking up water and then releasing it to create undulating waves with crests and troughs frequently. This rise (crest) and fall (trough) of water is labeled as tides. The motion of earth (rotating and spinning) keeps the water level of the oceans at constant levels because of the gravity of earth and the centrifugal force. But the gravitational force of moon pulls water towards itself causing the water to rise. As moon rotates around the earth, the areas of the earth that experience this pull show high tide whereas other areas show low tide. Tides are also formed because of the gravitational pull of the sun. All surfaces on earth get attracted towards sun, but water in the oceans being liquid are more affected by this gravitational pull. Moon’s gravitational pull on water is much more than the gravitational pull of the sun because the moon is 400 times closer to earth than sun.


Winds blowing over the surface of the water in the oceans are responsible for currents. However, currents in oceans are not formed by winds alone. Water near the poles is cold while the water near the equator is warm. This temperature difference between the two waters is also responsible for the formation of currents. The topography of the bottom of the ocean, rain, and even tides also cause currents in the water.

What is the difference between Tides and Currents?

• Tides are big rise and fall of ocean water caused by the gravitational forces of the moon and sun.

• Currents are waves in ocean water caused by winds, temperature difference, and the topography of the bottom of the ocean surface

• Waves move from side to side that can be left to right or right to left whereas tides move up and down.