The amount of energy in a wave is related to its amplitude and its frequency. Large-amplitude earthquakes produce large ground displacements. Loud sounds have high-pressure amplitudes and come from larger-amplitude source vibrations than soft sounds. Large ocean breakers churn up the shore more than small ones.

Consider the example of the seagull and the water wave earlier in the chapter . Work is done on the seagull by the wave as the seagull is moved up, changing its potential energy. The larger the amplitude, the higher the seagull is lifted by the wave and the larger the change in potential energy.

The energy of the wave depends on both the amplitude and the frequency. If the energy of each wavelength is considered to be a discrete packet of energy, a high-frequency wave will deliver more of these packets per unit time than a low-frequency wave. We will see that the average rate of energy transfer in mechanical waves is proportional to both the square of the amplitude and the square of the frequency.

If two mechanical waves have equal amplitudes, but one wave has a frequency equal to twice the frequency of the other, the higher-frequency wave will have a rate of energy transfer a factor of four times as great as the rate of energy transfer of the lower-frequency wave. It should be noted that although the rate of energy transport is proportional to both the square of the amplitude and square of the frequency in mechanical waves, the rate of energy transfer in electromagnetic waves is proportional to the square of the amplitude, but independent of the frequency.