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capillary wave

a tiny wave with a wavelength of less than 1.73 centimeters, whose restoring force is surface tension; the first type of wave to form when wind blows.

CDip program

Coastal Data Information Program monitored by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and consisting of a wave buoy array located on the West coast of the United States that records wave height and direction.

constructive interference

the addition of wave energy as waves interact, producing larger waves

deep-water wave

a wave in water deeper than one-half its wavelength

destructive interference

the reduction of wave energy as waves interact, producing smaller waves


the uninterrupted distance over which wind blows without a significant change in direction, a factor in wind wave development

free wave

a progressive wave free of the forces that formed it

gravity wave

a wave with wavelength greater than 1.73 centimeters, whose restoring forces are gravity and momentum


addition of subtraction of wave energy as waves interact

internal wave

progressive wave occurring at the boundary between liquids of different densities


in ocean waves, the circular pattern of water molecule movement at the air-sea interface. orbital motion contrasts with the side-to-side or back-and-forth motion of pure transverse or longitudinal waves

orbital waves

a progressive wave in which particles of the medium move in closed circles

pressure sensor

a device that is mounted on the sea floor, designed to weigh the water that passes over it, as a measure of wave height

progressive wave

a wave of moving energy in wich the wave form moves in one direction along the surface of the transmission medium

restoring force

the dominant force acting to return water to flatness after formation of a wave

rip current

a strong, fast current formed by the seaward return flow of surf. sometimes called, erroneously, rip tide

rogue wave

a single wave crest much higher than usual, caused by constructive interference


a term used to describe simultaneous wind waves of many wavelengths, forming a chaotic ocean surface. sea is common in an area of wind wave origin

shallow-water wave

a wave in water shallower than one-twentieth its wavelength

standing wave

a wave in which water oscillates without causing progressive wave forward movement. there is no net transmission of energy in a standing wave


a term used to define the confused mass of agitated water rushing shoreward during and after a wind wave breaks


mature wind waves of one wavelength that form orderly undulations of the ocean surface

transitional wave

a wave moving through water deeper than one-twentieth but shallower than half its wavelength


disturbance caused by the movement of energy through a medium

wave crest

highest part of a progressive wave above the average water level

wave diffraction

movement of waves around obstacles

wave frequency

the number of waves passing a fixed point per second

wave height

vertical distance between a wave trough and adjacent wave crests

wave period

the time in seconds that it takes for successive wave crests to pass a fixed point

wave reflection

the reflection of progressive waves by a vertical barrier. reflection occuurs with little loss of energy

wave refraction

slowing and bending of progressive waves in shallow water

wave size

the height and length of a wave

wave speed

how fast the energy of a progressive wave is moving forward. calculation differs for deep-water and shallow-water waves; see formulas at the beginning of this list, and in the text

wave steepness

height-to-wavelength ratio of a wave. theoretical maximum steepness of deep-water waves is 1:7

wave train

a group of waves of similar wavelength and period moving in the same direction across the ocean surface

wave trough

the valley between wave crests below the average water level in progressive waves


the horizontal distance between two successive wave crests (or troughs) in a progressive wave


a wind wave breaking at sea and releasing its energy at the crest

wind duration

the length of time the wind blows over the ocean surface, a factor in wind wave development

wind strength

average speed of the wind, a factor in wind wave development

wind wave

gravity wave formed by transfer of wind energy into water

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