Weather, Ocean, and Social Aspects Associated with Rip Current Deaths in the United States

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2014


Waves, rip current, wave buoy, significant wave height, beach safety.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The purpose of this research is to provide a better understanding of the physical and social aspects of rip currents in ocean areas that will lead to better forecasts, better governmental policies in beach areas, and ultimately to save lives. The primary factors associated with rip current formation on beaches are variations in the local beach bathymetry, wind-generated waves of significant wave height typically 1 m or higher, and lower tidal stages. The methodology followed for this study included a review of demographics from over 500 rip current drowning reports along the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States. This research indicated that tourists are often the victims and rescuers often become the victims. For each state or sub-state area where rip current drownings are prevalent, an analysis of social aspects and associated ocean and weather patterns was conducted using buoy and tide data and composite weather patterns. It is important to understand the evolution of these fatal events with respect to the trends of wave height, period, and pressure patterns and resulting surface wind fields that produce the waves.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Coastal Research, special issue 72, p. 50-55