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Introduction to Waves

<p><strong>Fig. 4.1.</strong> A surfer emerging from a plunging, barreling wave</p>

Waves are one of the most striking features of the ocean. They can be calming and beautiful or terrifying and relentless. Waves are a source of inspiration for artists, surfers, and scientists. Waves can also be violent and destructive, sinking large ships during storms. Regardless of how they are viewed, waves are agents of change.


Ocean Literacy Principles

Principle 1: The earth has one big ocean with many features.


Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: Throughout the ocean there is one interconnected circulation system powered by wind, tides, the force of the earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), the sun, and water density differences. The shape of ocean basins and adjacent landmasses influence the path of circulation. (OLP 1c)


To build an understanding of water circulation throughout the ocean, it is important to understand how wind generates waves and how waves transfer energy over long distances with very little horizontal movement of water.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:


Activity: Watching Waves

The best way to learn about waves is to observe them. In addition to ocean waves, waves can be observed on windy days in lakes or rivers or, on a smaller scale, in swimming pools, puddles, and even a glass of water.


Activity: Make Your Own Wave

Use your knowledge of wave properties to create a wave worksheet, share your worksheet with a classmate.


Activity: Standing Waves

Create standing waves in a wave tank and look at the effect of frequency and length of wave pulse on wavelength, wave height, wave speed, and wave period.


Activity: Wave Interference

Use a long wave tank to observe the properties of wave interference.

Question Set

Question Set: Storms


Activity: Orbital Motion of Waves

Observe orbital motion of waves in a long wave tank.


Activity: Simulate Deep-Water, Transitional, and Shallow-Water Waves

Use a long wave tank to create and observe the differences between deep-water, transitional, and shallow-water waves.

Table of Contents:

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.