What Are Types of Ocean Waves?

The main wave types are breaking, constructive, deep water, destructive, inshore, internal, Kelvin, seiche, shallow water and surging waves. Ocean waves are usually categorized based on formation and behavior.

Breaking waves form when they collapse on themselves, sub-categorized into spilling and plunging breakers. Constructive waves are created on the coast with low wavelengths and heights, while destructive waves are similar but have a short wavelength with a vertical ellipsis. Deep water waves are long, straight and travel great distances in the ocean. In contrast, inshore waves are characterized by a shorter wavelength than water depth.

Internal waves are high and turbulent currents that are produced by the meeting of two water masses. Kelvin waves are specific to the Pacific Ocean, formed when a lack of wind creates high and wide waves that are warmer than the surrounding waters. Progressive waves move at great speed and can be split into two types: capillary waves and orbital progressive waves. Refracted waves are created in shallow water; the depth decreases the wave’s power and forms a curve shape.

Seiche waves are created in confined spaces and are short and not very powerful. Shallow water waves, on the other hand, are extremely powerful. They have a depth less than 1/20th of their wavelength and manifest either as tidal waves or tsunamis. Finally, surging waves are produced at storm centres by high-speed winds and travel great distances.