The Anatomy of a Wave

The Anatomy of a Wave

How waves are made?

Love to surf? Or are you a beach goer who loves to chill by the ocean? Either way, have you ever wondered how waves are made?
Waves are energy moving through the ocean. It might surprise you to hear this, but the energy of the wave actually comes from the wind.
More than 70% of the earth's surface is covered in water and when the wind blows over the surface of that water, it causes friction that pushes some parts of the water down and in turn up areas are pushed up. These areas of water start spinning in a circle which begins the wave. Thus, the more wind the bigger those waves can get, but it's only when they get closer to land that the spinning effect bobs ups and down on the surface and eventually causes waves to crash on the sand.
Courtesy of Pierre Carreau

Photography by Pierre Carreau

3 important measures:

How fast the wind blows - The biggest waves occur when the wind is blowing hard.

How long the wind blows - It last up to several days!

What is the distance that the wind will blow over water - The waves start moving the larger the distance of surface area there is.


How do we describe waves in the ocean?

Every wave has a top called “crest” with the maximum value or upward displacement within a cycle. The lowest point or bottom is called the “trough” and the vertical distance between the crest and the trough is what we call the wave height. The distance from one crest to the next is a transverse wave's called “wavelength”.

Massive Waves

An earthquake followed by a landslide in 1958 in Alaska's Lituya Bay generated a wave 100 feet high, the tallest tsunami ever documented.
The largest wave measured and recorded in the open ocean was 95 feet with wind force 9 during a storm near the Island of Rockall, 155 miles west of Scotland.   

Photography by Pierre Carreau