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in oceanographyoceanography,
study of the seas and oceans. The major divisions of oceanography include the geological study of the ocean floor (see plate tectonics) and features; physical oceanography, which is concerned with the physical attributes of the ocean water, such as currents and
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, an oscillating movement up and down, of a body of water caused by the frictional drag of the wind, or on a larger scale, by submarine earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. In seismologyseismology
, scientific study of earthquakes and related phenomena, including the propagation of waves and shocks on or within the earth by natural or artificially generated seismic signals.
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, waves moving though the earth are caused by the propagation of a disturbance generated by an earthquake or explosion. In atmospheric science, waves are periodic disturbances in the air flow.

Oceanographic Waves

In a body of water, waves consist of a series of crests and troughs, where wavelength is the distance between two successive crests (or successive troughs). As waves are generated, the water particles are set in motion, following vertical circular orbits. Water particles momentarily move forward as the wave crest passes and backward as the trough passes. Thus, except for a slight forward drag, the water particles remain in essentially the same place as successive waves pass. The orbital motion of the water particles decreases in size at depths below the surface, so that at a depth equal to about one half of the wave's length, the water particles are barely oscillating back and forth. Thus, for even the largest waves, their effect is negligible below a depth of 980 ft (300 m).

The height and period of water waves in the deep ocean are determined by wind velocity, the duration of the wind, and the fetch (the distance the wind has blown across the water). In stormy areas, the waves are not uniform but form a confusing pattern of many waves of different periods and heights. Storms also produce white caps at wind speeds c.8 mi per hr (13 km per hr). Major storm waves can be over a half mile long and travel close to c.25 mi per hr (40 km per hour). A wave in the Gulf of Mexico associated with Hurricane Ivan (2004) measured 91 ft (27.7 m) high, and scientists believe that other waves produced by Ivan may have reached as much as 132 ft (40 m) high. Waves of similar heights, sometimes called rogue waves, most commonly occur in regions of strong ocean currents, which can amplify wind-driven waves when they flow in opposing directions; sandbanks may also act to focus wave energy and give rise to rogue waves.

When waves approach a shore, the orbital motion of the water particles becomes influenced by the bottom of the body of water and the wavelength decreases as the wave slows. As the water becomes shallower the wave steepens further until it "breaks" in a breaker, or surf, carrying the water forward and onto the beach in a turbulent fashion. Because waves usually approach the shore at an angle, a longshore (littoral) current is generated parallel to the shoreline. These currents can be effective in eroding and transporting sediment along the shore (see coast protectioncoast protection,
methods used to protect coastal lands from erosion. Beaches can exist only where a delicate dynamic equilibrium exists between the amount of sand supplied to the beach and the inevitable losses caused by wave erosion.
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; beachbeach,
a gently sloping zone where deposits of unconsolidated sediments are subject to wave action at the shore of an ocean or lake. Most of the sediment making up a beach is supplied by rivers or by the erosion of highlands adjacent to the coast.
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In many enclosed or partly enclosed bodies of water such as lakes or bays, a wave form called a standing wave, or seiche, commonly develops as a result of storms or rapid changes in air pressure. These waves do not move forward, but the water surface moves up and down at antinodal points, while it remains stationary at nodal points.

Internal waves can form within waters that are density stratified and are similar to wind-driven waves. They usually cannot be seen on the surface, although oil slicks, plankton, and sediment tend to collect on the surface above troughs of internal waves. Any condition that causes waters of different density to come into contact with one another can lead to internal waves. They tend to have lower velocities but greater heights than surface waves. Very little is known about internal waves, which may move sediment on deeper parts of continental shelves.

Just as a rock dropped into water produces waves, sudden displacements such as landslides and earthquakes can produce high energy waves of short duration that can devastate coastal regions (see tsunamitsunami
, series of catastrophic ocean waves generated by submarine movements, which may be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides beneath the ocean, or an asteroid striking the earth. Tsunamis are also called seismic sea waves or, popularly, tidal waves.
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). Hurricanes traveling over shallow coastal waters can generate storm surges that in turn can cause devastating coastal flooding (see under stormstorm,
disturbance of the ordinary conditions of the atmosphere attended by wind, rain, snow, sleet, hail, or thunder and lightning. Types of storms include the extratropical cyclone, the common, large-scale storm of temperate latitudes; the tropical cyclone, or hurricane, which
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Seismic and Atmospheric Waves

Seismic waves are generated in the earth by the movements of earthquakes or explosions. Depending on the material traveled through, surface and internal waves move at variable velocities. Layers of the earth, including the core, mantle, and crust, have been discerned using seismic wave profiles. Seismic waves from explosions have been used to understand the subsurface structure of the crust and upper mantle and in the exploration for oil and gas deposits. Atmospheric waves are caused by differences in temperature, the Coriolis effectCoriolis effect
[for G.-G. de Coriolis, a French mathematician], tendency for any moving body on or above the earth's surface, e.g., an ocean current or an artillery round, to drift sideways from its course because of the earth's rotation.
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, and the influence of highlands.


in physics, the transfer of energyenergy,
in physics, the ability or capacity to do work or to produce change. Forms of energy include heat, light, sound, electricity, and chemical energy. Energy and work are measured in the same units—foot-pounds, joules, ergs, or some other, depending on the system of
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 by the regular vibrationvibration,
in physics, commonly an oscillatory motion—a movement first in one direction and then back again in the opposite direction. It is exhibited, for example, by a swinging pendulum, by the prongs of a tuning fork that has been struck, or by the string of a musical
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, or oscillatory motion, either of some material medium or by the variation in magnitude of the fieldfield,
in physics, region throughout which a force may be exerted; examples are the gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields that surround, respectively, masses, electric charges, and magnets. The field concept was developed by M.
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 vectors of an electromagnetic field (see electromagnetic radiationelectromagnetic radiation,
energy radiated in the form of a wave as a result of the motion of electric charges. A moving charge gives rise to a magnetic field, and if the motion is changing (accelerated), then the magnetic field varies and in turn produces an electric field.
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). Many familiar phenomena are associated with energy transfer in the form of waves. Soundsound,
any disturbance that travels through an elastic medium such as air, ground, or water to be heard by the human ear. When a body vibrates, or moves back and forth (see vibration), the oscillation causes a periodic disturbance of the surrounding air or other medium that
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 is a longitudinal wave that travels through material media by alternatively forcing the molecules of the medium closer together, then spreading them apart. Lightlight,
visible electromagnetic radiation. Of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, the human eye is sensitive to only a tiny part, the part that is called light. The wavelengths of visible light range from about 350 or 400 nm to about 750 or 800 nm.
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 and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel through space as transverse waves; the displacements at right angles to the direction of the waves are the field intensity vectors rather than motions of the material particles of some medium. With the development of the quantum theoryquantum theory,
modern physical theory concerned with the emission and absorption of energy by matter and with the motion of material particles; the quantum theory and the theory of relativity together form the theoretical basis of modern physics.
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, it was found that particles in motion also have certain wave properties, including an associated wavelength and frequency related to their momentum and energy. Thus, the study of waves and wave motion has applications throughout the entire range of physical phenomena.

Classification of Waves

Waves may be classified according to the direction of vibration relative to that of the energy transfer. In longitudinal, or compressional, waves the vibration is in the same direction as the transfer of energy; in transverse waves the vibration is at right angles to the transfer of energy; in torsional waves the vibration consists of a twisting motion as the medium rotates back and forth around the direction of energy transfer. The three types of waves are illustrated by an example in which a coil spring is held stretched out by two persons. If the person holding one end pulls a few coils toward himself and releases them, a longitudinal wave will travel along the spring, with coils alternately being pressed closer together, then stretched apart, as the wave passes. If the first person then shakes his end up and down or from side to side, a transverse wave will travel along the spring. Finally, if he grabs several coils and twists them around the axis of the spring, a torsional wave will travel along the spring.

A wave may be a combination of types. Water waves in deep water are mainly transverse. However, as they approach a shore they interact with the bottom and acquire a longitudinal component. When the longitudinal component becomes very large compared to the transverse component, the wave breaks.

Parameters of Waves

The maximum displacement of the medium in either direction is the amplitude of the wave. The distance between successive crests or successive troughs (corresponding to maximum displacements in the same direction) is the wavelength of the wave. The frequency of the wave is equal to the number of crests (or troughs) that pass a given fixed point per unit of time. Closely related to the frequency is the period of the wave, which is the time lapse between the passage of successive crests (or troughs). The frequency of a wave is the inverse of the period.

One full wavelength of a wave represents one complete cycle, that is, one complete vibration in each direction. The various parts of a cycle are described by the phase of the wave; all waves are referenced to an imaginary synchronous motion in a circle; thus the phase is measured in angular degrees, one complete cycle being 360°. Two waves whose corresponding parts occur at the same time are said to be in phase. If the two waves are at different parts of their cycles, they are out of phase. Waves out of phase by 180° are in phase opposition. The various phase relationships between combining waves determines the type of interferenceinterference,
in physics, the effect produced by the combination or superposition of two systems of waves, in which these waves reinforce, neutralize, or in other ways interfere with each other.
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 that takes place.

The speed of a wave is determined by its wavelength λ and its frequency ν, according to the equation v=λν, where v is the speed, or velocity. Since frequency is inversely related to the period T, this equation also takes the form v=λ/T. The speed of a wave tells how quickly the energy it carries is being transferred. It is important to note that the speed is that of the wave itself and not of the medium through which it is traveling. The medium itself does not move except to oscillate as the wave passes.

Wave Fronts and Rays

In the graphic representation and analysis of wave behavior, two concepts are widely used—wave fronts and rays. A wave front is a line representing all parts of a wave that are in phase and an equal number of wavelengths from the source of the wave. The shape of the wave front depends upon the nature of the source; a point source will emit waves having circular or spherical wave fronts, while a large, extended source will emit waves whose wave fronts are effectively flat, or plane. A ray is a line extending outward from the source and representing the direction of propagation of the wave at any point along it. Rays are perpendicular to wave fronts.

Wave (physics)

The general term applied to the description of a disturbance which propagates from one point in a medium to other points without giving the medium as a whole any permanent displacement.

Waves are generally described in terms of their amplitude, and how the amplitude varies with both space and time. The actual description of the wave amplitude involves a solution of the wave equation and the particular boundary conditions for the case being studied. See Wave equation, Wave motion

Acoustic waves, or sound waves, are a particular kind of the general class of elastic waves. Elastic waves are propagated in media having two properties, inertia and elasticity. Electromagnetic waves (for example, light waves and radio waves) are not elastic waves and therefore can travel through a vacuum. The velocity of the wave depends on the medium through which the wave travels. See Electromagnetic wave


(fluid mechanics)
A disturbance which moves through or over the surface of a liquid, as of a sea.
A disturbance which propagates from one point in a medium to other points without giving the medium as a whole any permanent displacement.


1. one of a sequence of ridges or undulations that moves across the surface of a body of a liquid, esp the sea: created by the wind or a moving object and gravity
2. the waves the sea
3. Physics an oscillation propagated through a medium or space such that energy is periodically interchanged between two kinds of disturbance. For example, an oscillating electric field generates a magnetic oscillation and vice versa, hence an electromagnetic wave is produced. Similarly a wave on a liquid comprises vertical and horizontal displacements
4. Physics a graphical representation of a wave obtained by plotting the magnitude of the disturbance against time at a particular point in the medium or space; waveform
5. a prolonged spell of some weather condition
6. an undulating pattern or finish on a fabric


(language, robotics)
A robotics language.

["WAVE: A Model-Based Language for Manipulator Control", R.P. Paul, Ind Robot 4(1):10-17, 1979].


(1) See iOS 8 Wave prank.

(2) A ripple or undulation. All electromagnetic radiation, including radio signals, light rays, x-rays, and cosmic rays, as well as sound, behave like rippling waves in the ocean. To visualize a wave, take a piece of paper and keep drawing a line up and down while pulling the paper perpendicular to the line. Modulate the line by making it different lengths as you draw it with the paper moving, and notice the resulting pattern. See wave-particle duality and wavelength.


The waves in dreams may represent emotional fluctuations. If you are currently experiencing a period of tranquility and peace, you may be dreaming about calm waters and gentle ocean waves. This dream suggests that you may be gathering energy and recharging emotionally. However, more commonly people dream of violent and dangerous tidal waves. Tidal waves or tsunamis suggest a period of emotional upheaval. Anxiety, stress, and unconscious materials may be coming to the surface and affecting your daily moods. Giant tidal waves may symbolize current emotional unhappiness and psychological stress, which are threatening to destroy you. The outcome of this dream may reveal how much strength you have to “ride out” personal storms. For example, surviving the tidal wave suggests that you have enough strength to overcome challenges and drowning that you may be “in it over your head” and should seek assistance.
References in periodicals archive ?
But the plucky pensioner was determined she wasn't going to let her family down so she waved down a passing JCB and hitched a lift in its bucket.
Barson told magistrates he stopped his car through curiosity after being waved down by a girl standing in Britannia Street.
Officer Carlos Barrios, 24, used a modified Heimlich maneuver to save the 2-year-old after his mother waved down Barrios and rookie Officer Jason Hough at 8:50 p.
Charles Glendinning, of Yeovil, waved down drivers.
The 27-year-old van driver was waved down by the pair from the roadside.