Oceans form a large part of the earth, covering 71% of the earth’s surface. Water in the oceans is moving constantly in the form of waves. But have you ever wondered how these tiny and sometimes huge waves are formed? Let us take a look.
What causes Ocean Waves?
Ocean waves are formed with the contact between the earth, moon and the sun. Ocean waves are also formed by wind blowing across the surface of ocean water.
Wind waves: These are the most common type of waves that we see. Wind carries a lot of energy. When the wind comes in contact with the surface water, there is friction between air molecules and water molecules. The energy from the wind is transferred to the water, thus forming ripples in lakes and waves in oceans. The stronger the wind; the larger the waves.
Tidal waves: Tidal waves are wind waves but they are larger and higher and occur due to the gravitational pull between the earth, moon and the sun. The earth does not have the potential to hold so much ocean water because of its movement. It is gravity that helps the water stay in its place. The moon and earth are like magnets that pull towards each other. The moon’s gravity pulls the ocean water on the earth, causing waves to sway up and down. When the moon is closer to one side of the earth, it pulls the ocean water towards it. This forces the ocean waters to rise and brings the waves closer to the banks.
This is called high tide. The other part of the earth where the moon isn’t close, water levels go down and thus a low tide is formed.
Every day the earth experiences two high tides and two low tides. This is due to the constant moving and spinning of the earth, which makes ocean water fall off the earth, but it is held due to gravity.
Extreme tides occur when the moon, earth and the sun are perfectly aligned, in one straight line. In this case the tides are almost 20% higher than normal days.
Underwater explosions: This is another reason why waves are formed. Earthquakes under the surface of the ocean cause huge waves like the Tsunami. Volcanoes, landslides, meteors are other underwater explosions that cause huge destructive waves.
Did you know that the largest waves on earth occur in the Indian Ocean? This happens because, in this region, the winds blow in the same direction at a constant speed. The waves here occur at a height of 7 to 14 meters.
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