I can't find any source which claims what sort of waves ripples in water are. I vaguely remember my teacher saying that they're neither transverse nor longitudinal. Even if this is correct, I don't understand why it is so. Please explain. If it's not correct, what sort of waves are ripples in water?


The answer should be stated with respect to proper context.

  • The ripples created in the water of a small, isolated water body due to the sudden disturbance by some foreign object are transverse in nature.

This can be visualized by dropping a leaf softly on the water surface and then dropping a pebble or a stone, a small distance away from the leaf. If you observe the ripples emanating from the point where the pebble struck the water, you will observe that, as they move in spherically outward direction along the water surface, the leaf moves up and down, as the ripples pass through.

Reason: This is due to the fact that in a small, isolated water body, the water is sufficiently still at the initial instant and the molecules are not in turbulent motion.

  • However, for a sea-coast, this is not true as the molecules of water forming the tides are in continuous turbulent motion.

This is the case, I think, that your teacher referred to. IMHO these waves cannot be classified as transverse or longitudinal.

But again, the parts of the seas and oceans which are far away from the coastlines are more or less free of violent tides and here, we have transverse waves.

Hope this helps you.


Capillary waves, sometimes referred to as ripples, are effected by surface tension.

Also, there are gravity-capillary waves effected by both gravity and surface tension.

Ripples waves are also transverse waves, which can spread out as concentric circles.

Transverse waves can also form in a strait line as with two persons creating waves with a jump rope.


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