Tide tables can be used for any given locale to find the predicted times and amplitude (or "tidal range"). The predictions are influenced by many factors including the alignment of the Sun and Moon, the phase and amplitude of the tide (pattern of tides in the deep ocean), the amphidromic systems of the oceans, and the shape of the coastline and near-shore bathymetry (see Timing). They are however only predictions, the actual time and height of the tide is affected by wind and atmospheric pressure. Many shorelines experience semi-diurnal tides—two nearly equal high and low tides each day. Other locations have a diurnal tide—one high and low tide each day. A "mixed tide"—two uneven magnitude tides a day—is a third regular category.
Tides vary on timescales ranging from hours to years due to a number of factors, which determine the lunitidal interval. To make accurate records, tide gauges at fixed stations measure water level over time. Gauges ignore variations caused by waves with periods shorter than minutes. These data are compared to the reference (or datum) level usually called mean sea level.
While tides are usually the largest source of short-term sea-level fluctuations, sea levels are also subject to change from thermal expansion, wind, and barometric pressure changes, resulting in storm surges, especially in shallow seas and near coasts.
Tidal phenomena are not limited to the oceans, but can occur in other systems whenever a gravitational field that varies in time and space is present. For example, the shape of the solid part of the Earth is affected slightly by Earth tide, though this is not as easily seen as the water tidal movements.