The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Waves and Tides

The main driving force of the complex tides observed in the Solent arise from the tidal characteristics of the English Channel. These characteristics mean that there is a significant tidal gradient in the Solent from 1.2m in Christchurch Bay to 3.0m in Chichester Harbour. Near Calshot, the tidal regime and bathymetry of Christchurch Bay results in a double high water. Further to the east, around Spithead, changes in the relationship between the tides and bathymetry results in an extended (rather than double) high tide.

In Southampton Water, the tidal characteristics are exaggerated by internal resonance within the estuary, this results in a 'young flood stand' and a double high water period with little change in water level.

At 1216hrs on 10th March 2008, a coastal storm and spring tides led to one of the highest High Water Tides ever recorded in the Port of Southampton.  At 5.60 metres above Chart Datum, it matched one day in 1924 and one day in 1999.

A bank in the centre of the Solent, Bramble Bank, is exposed at low water springs. This, combined with the unique tidal patterns in the area, makes navigation challenging. There is an annual cricket match on Bramble Bank during the lowest tide of the year.

The largest waves in the Solent are principally generated by waves blowing along the East and West Solent, these are the two directions with the longest fetch. Protection from Hurst Spit and the Bramble Bank means that swell waves are likely to be minimal.

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