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What causes waves in the ocean?

What causes waves in the ocean?

Ocean waves are a ubiquitous part of coastal landscapes and beach vacations. But have you ever stopped to ponder where a wave originates, how far it travels, or why it forms in the first place?

A wave forms every time energy passes through a body of water, causing the water to move in a circular motion. While any number of events, including hurricanes, full moons, and earthquakes, can transfer kinetic or motion-generated energy into water, it is the wind that is often to blame. The type of wave that is created depends on which of the above events initiates the wave action.

The study was published in the prestigious scientific journal Physical Review Letters. The model is designed to explain the process of wave formation and has been tested in a series of complex experiments, which have been carried out over a long period of time. The researchers in charge of the project are Professor Lev Shemer and Ph.D. Meital Geva, from the Iby School of Mechanical Engineering Water Wave Laboratory and the Aladar Fleischman School of Engineering, respectively.

There are many types of waves that flow through the oceans, from small ripples to huge walls of water, 30 meters high from peak to trough. They are mainly caused by winds and, if left unchecked, can travel thousands of miles.

What causes ocean waves

The ocean is the surface where the behavior of waves is most evident, it is never still and always generates movement. There is not a single moment when the vast ocean is still, whether you observe it from the safety of the beach or from a boat in the middle of the water, the immensity of a gigantic body of water commands awe. But then the question arises, what causes the waves of the ocean.

Waves are most commonly caused by wind. Wind-driven waves, or surface waves, are created by friction between the wind and surface water. When the wind blows over the surface of the ocean or a lake, the continuous disturbance creates the crest of a wave. These types of waves are found globally in the open ocean and along the coast.

Wind waves: This is the most common type of wave we see. The wind carries a lot of energy. When the wind comes into contact with surface water, there is friction between the air molecules and the water molecules. Wind energy is transferred to water, forming ripples in lakes and waves in oceans. The stronger the wind; the bigger the waves.

Tidal waves: Tsunamis are wind waves but they are bigger and higher and are produced due to the gravitational attraction between the earth, the moon and the sun. The earth does not have the potential to hold as much ocean water due to its movement. It is gravity that helps the water stay in place.

Climate prediction tool

The formation of waves by the wind is the result of an interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere and, therefore, the process has a decisive effect on the passage of mass, momentum and energy at the interface with the water surface. .

The researchers believe that understanding this interaction will allow an assessment of environmental conditions that affect marine life and the ability to predict the movement of contaminants on the surface of the water . For Geva, using the conclusions of the study can provide answers in areas “increasingly important in the era of climate crisis in which we live .”

The waves like melodies

Mechanical waves, including water waves, can be described by a set of frequencies, just as a melody can be divided into musical notes and harmonies. Its spatial distribution is uniform. The new model proposed by the researchers takes into account all the unstable harmonics and the limitations that apply to them, including the breaking limit of very steep harmonics, the gradual decay due to the sheltering of low-amplitude harmonics by higher waves, and a spatial time. By doing so, the new theory allows the physical situation to be described with high reliability, compared to previous models.

The researchers added that the theoretical difficulty that existed in developing a complete model stems from the fact that the water surface consists of intricate dynamic shapes and patterns that react with each other. The three-dimensional wavefield is characterized by a high degree of randomness and varies in time and space.

Geva explains “This model is the only one that allows us to describe the time and space of the wave field from a surface state of still water to a final state fixed in time. And, most importantly, it is the first model that is fully verified by experiments and that describes the process not only qualitatively, but also quantitatively.”

Ocean is now predictable

The problem also involves a variety of mechanical forces due to gravity, viscosity, and surface tension. The transition of energy and momentum between air and water must also be taken into account, a non-trivial problem in fluid mechanics. The problem with previous theories, which have been used by researchers in this field for 65 years, stems from the many assumptions on which they were based and the inability to quantitatively validate them, which greatly limited their predictive ability. physical.

The author of the model, Geva, added regarding the reliability achieved that “in this study we use, for the first time, precise equations and methods accepted in the field of statistical mechanics to analyze the random and non-linear processes that occur during the formation of waves”.

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