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25 Characteristics of Waves in The Ocean

by Dwi Purwaningsih

Ocean is the largest body water on earth. Many phenomena and natural occurrence occurs in the ocean just like other characteristics of ocean environment. The diverse topography also makes ocean an interesting subject. One of the common phenomena in the ocean that happens almost frequently is sea wave. Sea wave is the movement of sea water in circular motion.

Waves are created by the force that passes through water. Most waves are result of wind force, while the other is driven by moon force or greater force like cyclone or hurricane. The circular motion usually lands on the coast line of the land. Despite it being something that people commonly see, waves also have more characteristics. Here are 25 characteristics of waves in the ocean.

1. Travel Thousand Miles

The wave that reaches the coast line seems short-lived as another wave will come in a matter of seconds or minutes. However, the wave actually has traveled a lot before finally reaching the shore line. It is a common thing for wind-driven or other forces outside gravitation pull as the wave tends to have horizontal motion.

The wave travels thousand miles from other part of the ocean before finally reaching the shore. As it keeps moving, it may lose force in the process and makes wave generally not harmful for people at the beach. However, if the force is hurricane or typhoon, greater wave may come with greater force landing on the shore as well. Due to this, it is best to keep watch of the shore line. (Related to: General Characteristics of Coastal Ocean).

2. Influenced by Wind Speed

The waves, especially the wind waves one are greatly influenced by the speed of the wind. Wind ea occurs because of the energy transfer between the wave crest and the wind. In order for it to occur, the wind must be faster in moving the water and swell it up. The faster the wind, the faster it reaches shore line or open sea as well.

The speed of the wind also determine the force that will carry the waves in the open sea. Slower, and calmer wave is usually form calmer wave as well because the wind is not so strong as to make the wave reach the shore or break down outside the sea line. The same goes for the faster speed of wind. It influence the height and the length of the wave.

3. Various Direction

Wave does not move to one direction only. The force that carries them will determine in which direction it will go. They move in separate direction with various wavelengths. If it seems wave only has one direction from the shore line, the various wavelengths is apparent during storm day when the direction of the wave clashing with each other.

When wave clashed with another wave with different direction, it will create what called as confused sea. Confused in this term does not mean the wave is literally confused but the clash of wave makes the sea becomes unstable. In this condition, it is best for fisherman not to go to the open sea as confused wave has no clear direction and may harm both the crew and the boat.

4. Dynamic Group Wave

Waves in ocean often comes in a group. The velocity and wavelength of each wave is different. This group of ocean waves consists of several kinds of wave. The smaller wav usually leads the way followed by medium wave and big wave in behind. The flow of the three waves is dynamic yet still in line as long as they are carried by the same force with one direction.

The group wave occurs when different force of waves with the same direction meets and together they go to the direction in the order mentioned before. The group wave often breaks down on the shore as the force pushes them to be out from the calmer sea. The impact of group wave definitely is stronger than other impacts.

5. Affected by Gravitation

The source of force of the wave is not only from the wind but also from gravitational pull of the moon. During the full moon phase, the gravitation pull is stronger. Thus, it makes the sea water go up and has higher height compared to usual. The wave that the gravitation created is called tidal wave.

Unlike wind wave, tidal wave does not occur frequently or every day. It only occurs during the moon phase in which gravitational pull dominates the sea current. Tidal wave is also more massive and uniform compared to wind wave. The seasonal wave, however, has more significant impact to fisherman activity as it affects the volume of the sea as well as more risky time to fish.

6. Has Capillary Wave

Capillary wave is a type of wind wave where surface tension effects dominate the phase. The wavelength of capillary wave is pretty short, it is only about 0,2 meter per second. As for the alternative name of capillary wave, it is best known as ripples. The capillary wave tend to make shape impression, especially in a clear and calm sea water. The shape depends on the surface tension affected it. It can be circular motion or cat paw-like wave.

When there is also gravitational pull along with surface tension, the wavelength of the capillary wave becomes longer and with a little addition of force. This only happens during full moon phase. Nonetheless, the wavelength of capillary wave does not reach no more than 2 meters long.

7. Has Swell

Another type of sea wave is swell. Swell is different from capillary waave. The wave is also called as survey gravity wave. This type of wave is a series of mechanical waves on the surface that are not generated by the local wind, but a result of distant weather system instead. The distant wind travels and brings up the water in a quite long distance before it reaches the shore.

The wavelength of swell differs from each other as it depends on how strong the distant wind is. In Mediterranean sea, the wavelength is not more than 250 m. however, if it comes from sever storm, the wavelength can reach 200 m. To know more about swell, read Causes of Ocean Swells.

8. Wavelength Control Speed

In determining then type of wave, wavelength is important. Wavelength is defined as the size of the orbit within sea water. The wave moves along with the energy force that carries it on. The longer the wavelength of a wave is, the faster the energy transfer will move on the water.

A wave cannot reach at a deep level if it comes in a weak energy force with no support of the wavelength. It will have more force to move forward if the wavelength reaches the criterion of power and length to push forward the wave. Therefore, wavelength is important in determining and controlling the speed of the wave

9. The Shape of Wave Alters

When the wave is travelling, the shape of alters from time to time. The shape change especially occurs when the waves travel from deep to shallow surface. This process is called as shoaling. The wave crest can decrease as well as the length since the orbits become asymmetrical. The process begins either instantly or gradually once the wave entered the part of the sea where the depth is deeper.

The only factor that increases is the height of the wave. As the wave reaches deeper sea, the height becomes taller than the wave in the shallow water. The longevity of the height depends on the force of the wave. It may break down in a moment when there is not enough energy to sustain it.

10. Has Wave Breaking

There is a phenomenon of the wave where it breaks down because of several causes. A breaking wave occurs when the base of the wave loses energy and cannot support the top anymore. The wave breaks when it enters shallower water compared to what it travelled before. Moreover, it can also happen when two system of wave oppose each other. If it happens, there will be join forces that cancel each of the system strength, eventually cause the wave to break down.

The wave break in water when the ratio between the wavelength and to the height of the wave exceeds 0,17 scale. The breaking wave is what surfer utilizes as part of surfing sport. The wave will go up and curved up before it breaks down into the water. As for the shape and size, it depends on the energy force of the wave.

Other characteristics of ocean wave:

  • The waves propagate on water
  • The depth below the surface affects the radius of circular motion
  • The energy density of wave depends on water density
  • Rarely comes in single wave
  • Tectonic force causes tsunami wave
  • Has irregular shape and height
  • Condensed pulse in a calm sea with low waves
  • Can be forecasted before the occurrence
  • Has internal waves
  • Strong wave dissipate the shore water temporarily
  • Can cause erosion or abrasion on the shore line
  • Lowest point of the wave is called trough
  • The wave breaks in many ways and places
  • The wave tend to stay up and down when the energy is low
  • Not as constant as wind direction

Ocean wave is more than people commonly see on the sea. There are other phenomena occurs within the sea that characterize it. Indeed, there are 25 characteristics of waves in the ocean.

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