Ripple marks
In geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, ripple marks are sedimentary structures
Sedimentary structures
Sedimentary structures are those structures formed during sediment deposition.Sedimentary structures such as cross bedding, graded bedding and ripple marks are utilized in stratigraphic studies to indicate original position of strata in geologically complex terrains and understand the depositional...

 (i.e. bedform
A bedform is a depositional feature on the bed of a river or other body of flowing water that is formed by the movement of the bed material due to the flow. Bedforms are characteristic to the flow parameters, and are particularly to flow depth and velocity, and therefore the Froude...

s of the lower flow regime) and indicate agitation by water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

Ocean current
An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting upon this mean flow, such as breaking waves, wind, Coriolis effect, cabbeling, temperature and salinity differences and tides caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun...

 or waves) or wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...


Defining ripple cross-laminae and asymmetric ripples

  • Current ripple marks, unidirectional ripples, or asymmetrical ripple marks are asymmetrical in profile, with a gentle up-current slope and a steeper down-current slope. The down-current slope is the angle of repose
    Angle of repose
    The angle of repose or, more precisely, the critical angle of repose, of a granular material is the steepest angle of descent or dip of the slope relative to the horizontal plane when material on the slope face is on the verge of sliding. This angle is in the range 0°–90°.When bulk granular...

    , which depends on the shape of the sediment. These commonly form in fluvial
    Fluvial is used in geography and Earth science to refer to the processes associated with rivers and streams and the deposits and landforms created by them...

     and aeolian depositional environments, and are a signifier of the lower part of the Lower Flow Regime.

  • Ripple cross-laminae forms when deposition takes place during migration of current or wave ripples. A series of cross-laminae are produced by superimposing migrating ripples. The ripples form lateral to one another, such that the crests of vertically succeeding laminae are out of phase and appear to be advancing upslope. This process results in cross-bedded units that have the general appearance of waves in outcrop sections cut normal to the wave crests. In sections with other orientations, the laminae may appear horizontal or trough-shaped, depending upon the orientation and the shape of the ripples. Ripple cross-laminae will always have a steeper dip downstream, and will always be perpendicular to paleoflow meaning the orientation of the ripples will be in a direction that is ninety degrees to the direction that current if flowing. Scientists suggest current drag, or the slowing of current velocity, during deposition is believed to be responsible for ripple cross-laminae.


Straight ripples generate cross-laminae that all dip in the same direction, and lay in the same plane. These forms of ripples are constructed by unidirectional flow of the current.

Sinuous ripples generate cross-laminae that are curvy. They show a pattern of curving up and down as shown in picture. Sinuous ripples produce trough cross lamination. All laminae formed under this type of ripple dip at an angle to the flow as well as downstream. These are also formed by unidirectional flow of current.

Catenary ripples generate cross-laminae that are curvy but have a unidirectional swoop. They show a pattern similar to what a repeated "W" would look like. Like the sinuous ripples, this form of ripple is created by unidirectional flow with the dip at an angle to the flow as well as downstream.
Linguoid / Lunate

Linguoid ripples have lee slope surfaces that are curved generating a laminae similar to caternary and sinuous ripples. Linguoid ripples generate an angle to the flow as well as downstream. Linguoid ripples have a random shape rather than a "W" shape, as described in the catenary description. Lunate ripples, meaning crescent shaped ripples, are exactly like linguoid ripples except that the stoss sides are curved rather than the lee slope. All other features are the same.

Size (scale)
Size Description
Very small Very small cross-lamination means that the ripple height is roughly one centimeter. It is lenticular, wavy and flaser lamination.
Small Small cross-bedding are ripples set at a height less than ten centimeters, while the thickness is only a few milimeters. Some ripples that may fit this category are wind ripples, wave ripples, and current ripples.
Medium Medium cross-lamination are ripples with a height greater than ten centimeters, and less than one meter in thickness. Some ripples that may fit this category would be current-formed sandwaves, and storm-generated hummocky cross stratification.
Large Large cross-bedding are ripples with a height greater than one meter, and a thickness equivalent to one meter or greater. Some ripples that may fit this category would be high energy river-bed bars, sand waves, epsilon cross-bedding and Gilbert-type cross-bedding.

Wave-formed ripple marks

  • Also called bidirectional ripples, or symmetrical ripple marks have a symmetrical, almost sinusoidal profile; they indicate an environment with weak currents where water motion is dominated by wave oscillations.

  • In most present-day streams, ripples will not form in sediment larger than coarse sand. Therefore, the stream bed
    Stream bed
    A stream bed is the channel bottom of a stream, river or creek; the physical confine of the normal water flow. The lateral confines or channel margins, during all but flood stage, are known as the stream banks or river banks. In fact, a flood occurs when a stream overflows its banks and flows onto...

    s of sand-bed streams are dominated by current ripples, while gravel-bed streams do not contain bedform
    A bedform is a depositional feature on the bed of a river or other body of flowing water that is formed by the movement of the bed material due to the flow. Bedforms are characteristic to the flow parameters, and are particularly to flow depth and velocity, and therefore the Froude...

    s. The internal structure of ripples is a base of fine sand with coarse grains deposited on top since the size distribution of sand grains correlates to the size of the ripples. This occurs because the fine grains continue to move while the coarse grains accumulate and provide a protective barrier.

Ripple marks formed by aeolian processes

Normal ripples: Or impact ripples occur in the lower part of the lower flow regime sands with grain sizes between 0.3-2.5 mm and normal ripples form wavelengths of 7-14 cm Normal ripples have straight or slightly sinuous crests approximately transverse to the direction of the wind.

Megaripples: Occur in the upper part of the lower flow regime where sand with bimodal particle size distribution forms unusually long wavelengths of 1-25 m where the wind is not strong enough to move the larger particles but strong enough to move the smaller grains by saltation
Saltation (geology)
In geology, saltation is a specific type of particle transport by fluids such as wind or water. It occurs when loose material is removed from a bed and carried by the fluid, before being transported back to the surface...


Fluid drag ripples: Or aerodynamic ripples are formed with fine, well-sorted grain particles accompanied by high velocity winds which result in long, flat ripples. The flat ripples are formed by long saltation paths taken by grains in suspension and grains on the ground surface.


Crest: The point on a wave with the maximum value or height. It is the location at the peak of the wave cycle as shown in picture to the left.

Trough: The opposite of a crest, so the minimum value or height in a wave. It is the location at the very lowest point of a wave cycle also shown in picture to left.

Lee: The lee side has a steeper slope than the stoss. The lee is always on the back side of the ripple, which is also on the opposite side of where the current flow meets the ripple. The current flows down the lee side.

Stoss: The stoss is the side of a wave or ripple that has a gentle slope versus a steeper slope. Current always flows up the stoss side and down the lee side. This can be used to determine current flow during the time of ripple formation.

External links

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