Photo of waves.
Breaking wave on a beach.

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Sound of waves on a beach.
Sound courtesy of OSAP/IOS CANADA
Surface waves can be caused by several different sources, such as passing boats, wind, and rain. Most of the sound of breaking waves is radiated from bubbles trapped under water at the wave’s leading edge. The movement and breaking of these bubbles cause strong underwater sounds. Bubbles left by the wake of a passing ship can be identified for almost an hour after the event. Ambient noise in the frequency range of 200-50,000 Hz is mostly due to spray and bubbles associated with breaking waves. It increases with increasing wind speed.
Additional Links on DOSITS


  • Medwin, H. 1995, "Measurement of Passive and Active Microbubbles in the Sea." Acoustical Society of America Meeting , St. Louis, Missouri, November 1995. 
Additional Resources

  • Deane, G.B. and Stokes, M.D. 2002, "Scale dependence of bubble creation mechanisms in breaking waves." Nature 418 (22 August 2002): 839-844. 
  • Nystuen, J.A. and Ma, B. 2002, "Using Ambient Sound to Passively Monitor Sea Surface Processes." Pan Oceanic Remote Sensing Conference, Bali, Indonesia, September 2002. (Link)