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Welcome to the "Wave" Family

The table below describes some of the chararacteristics of different waves.

wave length table

A trip to the beach will reveal the connection between the wind and the size of the waves. The stronger the wind, the bigger the waves. The variety and size of wind-generated waves are controlled by four principal factors: wind velocityfetchwind duration , and original sea state (condition present before the onset of recent winds). See related activity in lesson plans in "Teacher" section.

from TOPEX/Poseidon Prime Mission Results web page from TOPEX/Poseidon Prime Mission Results web page
from TOPEX/Poseidon Prime Mission Results web page from TOPEX/Poseidon Prime Mission Results web page

The above satellite images are taken from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite and show the corellation between wind speed and wave-height.

The ocean produces larger waves than a lake or pond because it has a larger fetch area. One fast-moving (velocity) puff of wind will not create large waves, but the same fast-moving wind over a sustained (long) period of time will. A slow-moving wind over a long period of time will not create large waves. You might say that wind velocity and wind duration in different combinations create different wave sizes. The original sea state (choppy or smooth) has an effect on the conditions that will be created by the newly arrived winds.

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