Where Do Ocean Waves Come From? | 2022

Where Do Ocean Waves Come From? | 2022

Where do ocean waves come from? How are the waves in the ocean produced? This is a question that most people have when they visit the beach. Living in Florida, you have probably had this question yourself. Well, you no longer have to wonder. We will be explaining the answers to the question “where do ocean waves come from?” throughout this article.

A trip to your favorite beach means sand, sun, wind, and crashing waves. These crashing waves, that we witness at the beach, are the waves that we are referring to when we ask where ocean waves come from. What really causes waves may surprise you, it is a fairly simple process and basically common sense. Where do ocean waves come from? Wind and, ultimately, the sun. It is really that simple.

The Basics Of Where Waves Come From

Sunlight travels to Earth and shrouds us in radiation and, more importantly, heat. Sunlight heats the Earth un-evenly. This is the reason it become hotter as you move towards the equator and becomes colder as you move away from the equator. Because of this un-even heat, we experience winds. Because hot air rises, we see cool air being pulled from other areas to fill in the gaps. It is because of this difference in temperatures that we experience wind. Pretty interesting, huh?

Wind is an energy source. When wind blows across the top of the ocean, some of its energy is transferred into the ocean water itself. This wind energy is responsible for moving particles in the surface water. However, the surface water particles do not just move in the direction that the wind is traveling. On the contrary, the surface water particles move in a circular motion. Each particle of surface water moves upward, and once it reaches its highest point, or “the crest”, it slows down. This is the point at which gravity takes control, pulling the particles back down again. As time goes on, the particles circle back to their original starting point, or very close to it.

You Have Probably Experienced This Before

You have experienced this feeling if you have ever stood in a wave as it is coming ashore. As the wave “crests” it pushes you up. Next, you will fall into what is known as the “trough”, which is the lower point between waves. You will also notice that you are pushed back and forth. If, for example, you were small enough to drift off into the water, you would notice that your body would complete a circle. The next time you spot a buoy in the water, watch it closely. You will notice that the buoy bobs up and down. If you pay attention, you can follow its circular path.

What Are Swells?

When wind energy creates waves in deeper waters, we can notice large swells. Swells do not look like waves that we witness on the beach but instead resemble rolling hills. When these swells reach a shallow area, you will see the distinct change from a swell to a wave.

As this water continues its circular path it begins to run into the ocean floor. This is where it slows down, due to catching on the seafloor, and causes all the water behind it to pile up. Eventually, this water becomes too tall, and we see the wave cresting period. The cresting wave curls over the top and tumbles over itself. Then, it crashes onto the shore, and slides up the beach, before retreating back to the ocean.

Not All Waves Are Created Equal

Not all the types of waves crest on shore in the same way that wind generated waves do. For example, big storms can cause what is known as “storm surges”. Other events like underwater earthquakes or underwater landslides can cause longer waves that we know as tsunamis. Storm surges and tsunamis create powerful waves that strike land like a wall of water, destroying anything in their path.

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