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What Do Square Waves Mean In The Ocean (And Why Are They So Dangerous)?

What Are “Square” Waves Anyways?

Have you ever noticed that waves crash horizontally, and parallel to the coastline? It seems like it’s just the way all waves crash, so not many people take note of this. However, there is a phenomenon called “square waves” that actually make the surface of the water look like a chessboard. Now that you know they exist, what do square waves mean?

What Do Square Waves Mean?

what do square waves mean
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Square waves can be spotted from a vantage point that’s higher up and looking down on the water. Sometimes you can see them from the beach, but the larger patterns will only be visible from higher up.

It may look like square waves are happening from something deep underneath the water. However, that’s not usually the case. Also known as cross sea or grid waves, square waves are a result of the intersection of two seas. They occur when waves from different weather systems meet each other at just the right angle.

what do square waves mean
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Some kind of a weather pattern (it can vary) in the region can cause the waves to form into this checker-like surface. This means that two opposing swells have collided, creating a unique and almost impossible-looking pattern on the water.

Why Are Cross Seas So Dangerous?

what do square waves mean
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What do square waves mean when it comes to danger? Even in small swell conditions, these waves can be dangerous. And while they may look neat, some experts say to get out of the water immediately if you ever see them yourself.

Even as an experienced surfer or swimmer, square waves aka cross sea is not something to mess with. They’re too strong to get out of, and are usually associated with powerful rip tides which can be super dangerous and even deadly!

Square Waves And Cross Seas Have Been Known To Even Sink Ships!

 what do square waves mean
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What do square waves mean for ships? Great question because this rare phenomenon happens way out at sea, as well as close to shore. Because of this, they can have a devastating effect on ships at sea.

The pattern can appear and disappear within minutes, but the minutes when they are visible present a tide and underwater currents that are so strong they can sink a ship.

The combination of waves from two different directions can produce a severe rolling movement. Because of this, a ship can be moved in a way where it takes on water, which can lead to disaster.

Keep in mind, however, that these types of waves are more dangerous for ships out at sea. And while they can indicate rip tides, most rip tides are not visible on the surface. Technically, square waves are more dangerous for ships than they are for surfers and swimmers.

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