Waves are always observed in the ocean. Even if the ocean is calm, you can still see some being formed near the horizon. An ocean is never still, there is always some form of motion in the water or in other words waves are never absent.

A curious question comes to our mind, What actually causes the ocean to have waves? Well, waves are formed by the passage of energy in the water causing it to move in circular motion. One thing to be noted here is that water does not travel with waves. They just transmit energy and never transport water from one place to another. They can actually travel across the basin if left unobstructed as they are in essence just energy.


They are generally formed by the wind. What happens is when the wind is blowing over the surface of the sea, then the surface of the waterbody exerts the gravitational force on the bottom layer of the wind. This leads to a pull effect on the layer above it ultimately reaching the topmost layer.

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So, what happens is that every layer of the wind has variable gravitational energy acting upon it because of the variation of speed in the wind itself. This leads to tumbling of the topmost layer, hence resulting in a circular motion. Therefore a wave is formed due to the downward pressure at the front and upward pressure at the rear.

Types of Ocean Waves :

By the paragraph above, we know how waves are formed in the ocean. However, it would be advantageous to know that there are many types of waves and they are categorized on the basis of their formation and behavior. Below is the list of them :

Breaking Wave: An ocean wave is said to be a breaking wave when it collapses on the top of itself. They are further of two types.

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  • Plunging Breaker Wave: This type of wave reaches a steeper beach and curls. Their motion is quite fast.
  • Spilling Breaker Wave: This type of wave reaches a sloping beach hence dispersing its energy over a large surface area.
Source: Wikipedia

Deep Water Wave or Swell Wave: Deep Water wave a.k.a swell wave is made when numerous waves of different lengths merge into one wave. These are long, strong and travel over large distances.

Plunging Wave: They are also called destructive waves. These are high waves of a short wavelength having a vertical ellipse. They have a very powerful backlash and these waves pull things back into the ocean from the beach.

Inshore Wave: The length of these waves is less when compared to the depth of the water they enter therefore their velocity is pretty less. This also implies that their height is more, which eventually leads to breakage. These waves have a very powerful backlash and drain the entire beach.


Kelvin Wave: These are formed when there is no wind. These are generally found in the Pacific ocean. They are high and wide and generally warmer than the surrounding water.

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Internal Wave: These are formed as a result of two water bodies interacting with each other inside the ocean. They are very powerful and become turbulent when they hit a landmass.

Progressive Waves:  The waves which move with a steady speed are called progressive waves. They are of two types:

  • Capillary Waves: These are formed when the wind creates pressure over capillarity.
  • Orbital Waves: These are the result of the merging of two liquid forms having different densities.

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Refracted waves: These travel in shallow water, the shallowness of the water reduces the power of the wave and it takes a curved path.

Seismic Waves: They are also known as tsunamis, they happen when there is an earthquake on the ocean floor. These carry a lot of energy and cause massive damage to the land.

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