Oceanography Ch. 8 Waves and Water Dynamics (Key Terms)

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Along an air-air interface, the movement of different air masses creates_______________, which are often represented by ripplelike clouds in the sky. _______________ waves are especially common when cold fronts (high-density air) move into an area.

Atmospheric Waves

The ___________ wind scale and the state of the sea, describes the appearance of the sea surface from dead calm conditions to hurricane-force winds.

Beaufort Wind Scale

As wind blows over the ocean surface, it creates pressure and stress. These factors deform the ocean surface into small, rounded waves w/ V-shaped troughs and wavelengths less than 1.74 centimeters. Commonly called ripples, these waves are called ___________ by Oceanographers

Capillary Wave

The motion of water particles caused by a wave as the wave is transmitted through the water

Circular Orbital Motion

A form of wave interference in which two waves come together in phase, for example, crest to crest, to produce a greater displacement from the still-water line than that produced by either of the waves alone.

Constructive Interference

The portion of an ocean wave that is displaced above the still-water level


A system that utilizes sea floor sensors capable of picking up the small yet distinctive pressure pulse from a tsunami at the surface

Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART)

The distance over which waves change from a choppy "sea" to uniform swell

Decay distance

Ocean waves where water depth (d) is greater than the wave base (L/2), the waves are callled __________. ___________ waves have no interference w/ the ocean bottom, so they include all wind-generated waves in the open ocean, where water depths far exceed wave base.

Deep-water wave

_____________ occurs when wave trains having the same wavelength come together (out of phase), meaning that the crest from one wave coincides w/ the trough from a second wave. If the waves have identical heights, the sum of the crest of one and the trough of another is zero, so the energies of these waves cancel each other out.

Destructive Interference

All waves begin as disturbances; the energy that causes ocean waves to form is called a ______________ force.

Disturbing Force

Along a water-water interface, the movement of water of different densities creates ____________ waves. Because these waves travel along the boundary between waters of different density, they are associated with a pycnocline. _________ waves can be much larger than surface waves, w/ heights exceeding 100 meters

Internal Waves

Alnong an air-water interface, the movement of air across the ocean surface creates _________ waves (simply called waves).

Ocean Waves


defined as the number of wave crests passing a fixed location per unit of time and is the inverse of the period.

Fully Developed Sea

An equilibrium condition, in which the waves cannot grow.

Gravity Wave

symmetric waves that have wavelengths exceeding 1.74 centimeters, as they greater height ___________ replaces capillarity as the dominant restoring force, giving these waves their name.

Interference Pattern

When swells from different storms run together, the waves clash, or ___________ w/ one another, giving rise to ______________ patterns.

Internal Wave

Along a _________- _________ interface, the movement of water of different densities creates _________ waves. Because these waves travel along the boundary between waters of different density, they are associated w/ a pyconocline


In 2000, the world's first commercial wave power plant began generating electricity. The small plant, called ______________ (Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Trasformer), is located on Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland.

Longitudinal Wave

(also known as push-pull waves), the particles that vibrate "push and pull" in the same direction that the energy is traveling, like a spring whose coils are alternately compressed and expanded

Mixed Interference

A pattern of wave interference in which there is a combination of constructive and destructive interference

Orbital Wave

Particles (color) move in _______ path. These waves transmit energy along the interface between two fluids of different density (liquids and/or gases).

Orthogonal line

A line constructed perpendicular to a wave front and spaced so that the energy between lines is equal at all times. _______________ are used to help determine how energy is distributed along the shoreline by breaking waves.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

coordinates information from 25 Pacific Rim countries and is headquarted in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.

Plunging Breaker

Impressive Curling breakers that form on moderately sloping beaches. (best for surfing)


The process by which the part of a wave in shallow water is slowed down, causing the wave to bend and align itself nearly parallel to the shore

Restoring force

A force such as surface tension or gravity that tends to restore the ocean surface displaced by a wave to that of a still water level

Rogue Wave

An unusually large wave that usually occurs unexpectedly amid other waves of smaller size. Also known as a superwave


A portion of the ocean where waves are being generated by wind

Shallow-water wave

A wave on the surface having a wavelength of at least 20 times water depth. The bottom affects the orbit of water particles and speed is determined by water depth


to become shallow

Spilling Breaker

A type of breaking wave that forms on gently sloping beach, which gradually extracts the energy from the wave to produce a turbulent mass of air and water that runs down the front slope of the wave

Splash Wave

A long-wavelength wave created by a massive object or series of objects falling into water; a type of tsunami

Standing Wave

A wave, the form of which oscillates vertically w/ out progressive movement. The region of maximum vertical motion is an antinode. On either side are nodes, where there is no vertical motion but maximum horizontal motion

Still water level

The horizontal surface halfway between crest and trough of a wave. If there were no waves, the water surface would exist at this level. Also known as zero energy level

Surf beat

An irregular wave pattern caused by mixed interference that results in a varied sequence of larger and smaller waves

Surf Zone

The nearshore zone of breaking waves


The sport of riding on the crest or along the tunnel of a wave, especially while standing or lying on a surfboard

Surging Breaker

A compressed breaking wave that builds up over a short distance and surges forward as it breaks. It is characteristic of abrupt beach slopes


A free ocean wave by which energy put into ocean waves by wind in the sea is transported w/ little energy loss across great stretches of ocean to the margins of continents where the energy is released in the surf zone

Transitional Wave

A wave moving from deep water to shallow water that has a wavelength more than twice the water depth but less than 20 times the water depth. Particle orbits are beginning to be influenced by the bottom.

Transverse Wave

A wave in which particle motion is at right angles to energy propagation


The part of an ocean wave that is displaced below the still-water line


A seismic sea wave. A long-period gravity wave generated by a submarine earthquake or volcanic event. Not noticable on the open ocean but builds up to great heights in shallow water

Wave base

The depth at which circular orbital motion becomes negligible. It exists at a depth of one-half wavelength, measured vertically from still water level.

Wave dispersion

The separation of waves as they leave the sea area by wave size. Larger waves travel faster than smaller waves and thus leave the sea area first, to be followed by progressively smaller waves

Wave height

(H) The vertical distance between a crest and the adjoining trough

Wave period

(T) The elapsed time between the passage of two successive wave crests (or troughs) past a fixed point. A wave's period is the inverse of its frequency

Wave reflection

A vertical barrier, such as seawall a rock or ledge can reflect waves back into the ocean w/ little loss of energy--a process called__________

Wave speed

(S) The rate at which a wave travels. It can be calculated by dividing a wave's wavelength (L) by it's period (T)

Wave steepness

Ratio of wave height (H) to wavelength (L). If a 1:7 ratio is ever exceeded by the wave, then the wave breaks.

Wave train

A series of waves from the same direction. Informally known as a wave set


(L) The horizontal distance between two corresponding points on successive waves, such as from crest to crest.

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