What Causes Square Waves In The Ocean?

Square waves are an interesting sight, but they are more dangerous than you would think. Square waves, also known as cross sea or cross waves, are square-shaped grids that form on the surface of the ocean. On the surface, the waves look moderate, yet they are powerful enough to send swimmers, surfers, boats, and even enormous ships off course.

Square Waves In The Ocean
Square Waves In The Ocean ( Image Credit: Flickr )

What Causes Square Waves?

Two distinct sets of waves converge at various angles to produce square waves. The angles are distinguished by the fact that they are occasionally bigger than 45°. Waves may travel hundreds of miles over the sea surface, and even on a calm day, storms far out in the ocean can produce rolling waves known as swells. They fly at long distances because there are no local breezes to interrupt them. When waves travelling in opposite directions contact, they form the cross sea’s square pattern. The waves look benign on the surface, yet beneath them are currents powerful enough to ruin ships. Cross waves are more dangerous than riptides because the square layout makes navigation harder.

Where Do Cross Waves Occur?

As long as the conditions are favourable, square waves can occur anywhere in the ocean. They are prevalent in France’s Isle of Rhe, where they draw a large number of tourists. During the waves, visitors are recommended to keep out of the water. Cross waves do not last forever since they lose energy as they travel, and local breezes can also interfere, causing the square pattern to vanish.

Are Cross Seas Dangerous?

Cross waves are generally beautiful to look at, but they are exceedingly dangerous even in tiny swells. They drag surfers and swimmers deep into the water while shaking vessels and ships from all sides. They are uncommon and can arise and go in a couple of minutes.

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Are Cross Seas and Rip Currents Similar?

Cross waves are not the same as rip currents. Rip currents are tiny channels of powerfully rushing water that are common around the shore. Swimmers and small boats are dragged farther into the ocean by the current. Panicked swimmers try to swim back to shore to avoid rip currents, but they risk dying due to exhaustion. Every year, coastguards and lifeguards save thousands of people throughout the West and East Coasts of the United States, while roughly 100 individuals perish.

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