The following dimensionless parameters (two of them well-known and five of them new) are defined for determination of ripple mark geometry: ripple index (RI), ripple symmetry index (RSI), continuity index (CI), bifurcation index (BI), straightness index (SI), and two different parallelism indices (PI1 and PI2).
In general, RI = 15 or less indicates wave or water current origin; RI = 17 or more indicates wind or swash origin. RSI = 1.5 or less indicates wave or swash types; RSI = 3 or more indicates wind or water current types. CI = 15 or more suggests wind or wave origin; CI = 10 or less suggests water current origin. BI = 10 or more suggests wave varieties; BI = 1 or less suggests wind varieties. SI = 102 or more indicates wind or deep-water wave types; SI = 15 to 102 indicates wind or wave types; SI =4 or less indicates current types. PI1 = 7 or more suggests wave origin; PI1 = 1 or less suggests water current origin. PI2 = 0.4 or more is probably the result of swash or water current action. PI2 = 0.2 or less is probably the result of wind or wave action. Longitudinal ripple marks (such as rib-and-furrow) and deformed or modified varieties (such as flat-topped tidal-flat ripple marks and nearly- flat-topped intermittent creek ripple marks) have been excluded, inasmuch as (1)they are commonly easy to identify from their appearance, and (2)they are difficult to measure with ordinary methods.
Plots of two indices against each other on coordinate paper can be particularly useful; the best combinations are RI vs. RSI, and RI vs. PI1, although several other pairs are almost as good. Where all seven parameters can be obtained, the confidence one can have in the interpretation is close to 98%.
The effects of current bias, or depth bias, on wave-type ripple marks, extend to both the symmetry (RSI) and to sediment-transport interpretations. Unless the investigator is reasonably sure that no such bias is present (i.e., RSI = 1.0 instead of some significantly higher value such as 1.5), wave-type ripple marks cannot be used to determine direction of either wave approach or sediment transport. If no such bias is present, wave-type ripple marks still cannot be used to determine precise sediment transport direction. If RSI = 1.0 precisely, it is not even necessary that the ripple crests parallel the waves that formed them. The same restrictions apply to the interpretation of micro-crossbedding (that is, ripple mark internal structure). Despite these seemingly severe limitations, general geometry commonly permits a reliable interpretation, and hence ripple marks can provide a great deal of useful data for paleogeographic interpretations.
The swash-zone variety of ripple marks includes two sub-types: those modified by a small but unmistakeable hydraulic jump, and those not so modified. The RI can be used to distinguish between these two, even when they were not observed to form.