Difference Between Waves, Tides, and Currents (With Table)

A total of 71 per cent of the water contained around the last landmasses has been absorbed by Mother Earth. Rivers, lakes, the sea, glaciers, and oceans are just a few of the various forms of water that exist on the planet today. They are the sources of freshwater, saltwater, and other types of water. When water moves and flows in different water bodies, it causes numerous oceanic movements, such as waves, tidal currents, and other phenomena. Sun, Moon, and Earth movement are essential factors in these calculations.

Waves vs Tides vs Current

The main difference between waves, tides, and currents, the most significant distinction is that the wind primarily influences waves, tides are mainly influenced by the gravitational forces between the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, and currents are primarily influenced by the temperature difference on the ocean surface.

In the scientific community, waves are defined as rhythmic movements that cause the water to rise and fall in the ocean. They can occur in both the vertical and horizontal directions of the sea. Waves are mostly made up of the energy released by the wind, and a circular motion is also made by a water particle on the ocean surface.

Tidal forces are created and influenced by gravitational forces between three bodies in space: the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The gravitational pull and centrifugal force that act on the Earth’s surface are the primary causes of the tides forming twice a day daily. Waves are classified according to various factors, including frequency, magnitude, and the location of the three celestial bodies — the Sun, Moon, and Earth.

Ocean currents are formed due to the energy released by the wind, and the direction in which they flow over a longer distance is referred to as the direction of the ocean currents. Winds, differences in density, temperature, gravity, salinity, and other elements are among the most critical factors that create these marine currents. Additionally, due to the Earth’s rotation on its axis, currents in the Southern Hemisphere move in an anticlockwise direction, whereas winds in the Northern Hemisphere move clockwise. The Coriolis Effect is another name for this phenomenon.

Comparison Table Between Waves, Tides, and Currents

Parameters of ComparisonWavesTidesCurrents
DefinitionEnergy above the water’s surface can be described as such.Changes in sea level are referred to as tidal fluctuations (rise and fall).A river’s current is referred to as its direction of flow.
FormationThis is caused by the water’s surface being pushed and pulled by the wind.As a result of the interaction of the Sun, Earth, and Moon’s gravitational fields.As a result of the ocean’s surface temperature difference.
InfluenceWhen it comes to these things, the wind plays a role.These are affected by the Earth’s position and location.Winds, temperature differences, and the terrain of the oceans all impact them.
OccurrenceRegularly occursTwice daily, tidal pools form.Every few years, El Nino-like currents appear.
DirectionFrom left to right.In and Out.In the Southern Hemisphere, things go counterclockwise, and in the Northern Hemisphere, things go clockwise. Additionally, the Coriolis Effect is used to describe the phenomenon.

What are Waves?

Waves are just the energy that passes above water bodies such as rivers, oceans, lakes, and the sea, amongst other things. They are affected by speed, distance, duration, height, etc. Different sorts of waves should be noted, including capillary waves and ripples. Even though these waves travel a considerable distance, they can reach up to 90cm. Higher waves, tsunamis, and other natural disasters are caused by a disruption in the influential variables, impacting individuals and infrastructure.

It is believed that no two waves are alike, and if two waves are deemed to be synonymous, they share a common characteristic of height, which can be quantified using the crest and trough of the wave.

What are Tides?

In geology, tides are described as the rise and fall of sea level caused by the gravitational and centrifugal forces acting on the Earth’s surface from the Sun, the Moon, and other celestial bodies. The gravitational attraction of the Moon causes these tides to occur while the Earth spins, which is responsible for their appearance. The result is an increase in water levels in the water bodies. For the sake of simplicity, when the Moon rotates around the Earth, it experiences gravitational pull. Higher tides strike the area experiencing this force, and the opposite is true for the opposite location.

Tides can be distinguished from various factors, including frequency, the number of high and low tides, the amplitude and height of the wave, and so on. The geometry of the coastline, the position of the Sun and the Moon, and the pattern of tidal movement are all elements that contribute to the formation of these tides.

What are Currents?

As the direction in which water flows, currents are to be defined as follows: Typically, these currents are found in open water bodies such as oceans, lakes, seas, and other bodies of water. The primary factors controlling these currents are the wind, the thermocline difference, and the rise and fall of the tide.

Water sources near the poles are believed to contain colder water than water sources near the equator because of the difference in temperature between the two locations. The created currents are caused by the temperature difference between the two sides. Because cold water sinks towards the equator, warm water currents travel outwards and move from the equator to the poles, replacing sinking water; this is the case:

It is thus possible to restore oxygen movement from one hemisphere to another by mixing these warm and cold currents.

Main Differences Between Waves, Tides, and Current

  1. Waves, tides, and currents all refer to the movement of water on the surface of a body of water.
  2. Waves and tidal currents result from gravitational interactions between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, while waves result from the wind. In contrast, ocean currents are created by changes in ocean surface temperature.
  3. When it comes to the ocean’s waves, tides, and currents, we can thank the winds, but we can also thank Earth’s position and rotation for our influence on them.
  4. El Nino Currents are generated every few years, while waves occur daily and Tides occur twice a day.
  5. While currents flow clockwise and anticlockwise in the ocean, waves go left to right, and tides rise and fall.


In the oceans, there is a plethora of life. Many organisms can be found in the oceans, rivers, and other waterways. Saline water is primarily found in oceans and seas, whereas freshwater is found mainly in glaciers, lakes, rivers, and the like. Tides, Currents, & Waves are the three main types of ocean movement. It’s impossible to compare the three because they are so dissimilar. They are influenced by a variety of elements during their development.

It helps the fisherman, ships, and boats sail more easily by determining and measuring wave heights, tides, and currents. Waves stand out the most of the three. And the directions in which they occur are clockwise and anticlockwise and sideways and upwards and below.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics/article/changes-in-the-form-of-short-gravity-waves-on-long-waves-and-tidal-currents/2C6DB27F8D9A24D8C81A6A940AEF947F
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v15i4.8861