A rip current is a strong flow of water running from a beach back to the open ocean, sea, or lake.
Rip currents are formed by a beach's topography. Rip currents can occur in areas with hard-bottom (rocky) or soft-bottom (sand or silt) beach topography.
Rip currents can form in a gap between sandbars, piers, or parts of a reef. Such underwater obstacles block waves from washing directly back to sea. The water from these waves, called feeder waves, runs along the shore until it finds an opening around the obstacle.
The stream of water, now a rip current, rushes to the opening, just like water down a drain. A rip current flows more quickly than the water on either side of it, and may stir up sediment from the beach. This sometimes makes rip currents easy to spot as dark or muddy lines running from the beach out toward the ocean. Rip currents are also usually more calm-looking than the surrounding water. Once past the obstacle (between the sandbars or piers), a rip current loses pressure and stops flowing.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry beach Noun
narrow strip of land that lies along a body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: beach feeder wave Noun
wave that contributes to a rip current.
body of water surrounded by land.
Encyclopedic Entry: lake obstacle Noun
something that slows or stops progress.
large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: ocean pier Noun
platform built from the shore and extending over water.
a ridge of rocks, coral, or sand rising from the ocean floor all the way to or near the ocean's surface.
Encyclopedic Entry: reef rip current Noun
a strong flow of water running from the shore to the open ocean, sea, or lake.
Encyclopedic Entry: rip current sandbar Noun
mound of sand created by water currents.
large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.
Encyclopedic Entry: sea sediment Noun
solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.
Encyclopedic Entry: sediment stream Noun
body of flowing fluid.
study of the shape of the surface features of an area.