Q:

How does a tsunami happen?

A:

Quick Answer

Tsunamis are formed by violent underwater earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, and, rarely, meteor impacts. These events cause sudden and drastic displacement of water, forming massive waves in the process.

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Full Answer

Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. As a result, most tsunamis occur near or at fault lines. When a tsunami is generated, it is not only 1 wave. Instead it is a series of waves, known as a wave train. These waves travel together and can be up to 1 hour apart. Tsunami waves travel extremely fast with speeds of up to 500 miles per hour—the speed of a jet.

They can be as wide as 60 miles and cross entire oceans without losing momentum. When a tsunami is traveling, it may be less than a foot in height. This causes it to be unnoticed by sailors who are at sea. As the tsunami approaches land, it hits shallow water and begins to slow down. The top of the wave, however, continues travelling, causing the sea to rise dramatically. Tsunamis are extremely destructive on land. The waves can surge up to 100 feet in height and completely devastate a coastal area. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was the deadliest tsunami in human history, killing over 150,000 people.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How can a tsunami be prevented?

    A:

    No known way to prevent a tsunami from occurring exists. Individuals can take steps to be prepared for a tsunami, and warning systems can help get people out of harm's way if an impending tsunami is predicted.

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  • Q:

    How do you prepare for a tsunami?

    A:

    Before a tsunami is imminent, people living in areas where tsunamis are possible should construct tsunami emergency kits and organize a family communications plan. When a tsunami watch is issued, people should tune into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather service, ensure the emergency kit is well stocked, locate family members and prepare to evacuate. When a tsunami warning is issued, everyone should evacuate to higher ground.

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  • Q:

    What happens during a tsunami?

    A:

    When a tsunami occurs, it's typically in response to an earthquake, and oceanic waves grow to large proportions, increasing their rate of causing damage. Other natural earth forces can cause tsunamis as well, including meteorites, landslides, explosions and a volcano erupting, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology or BOM.

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  • Q:

    How far inland can a tsunami go?

    A:

    With wave speeds that can reach as much as 435 miles per hour, a tsunami can travel as far inland as 10 miles, depending on the slope and the shape of the shoreline that it is traveling across. Ships traveling in the deep ocean may pass over a tsunami and not even notice it because a tsunami can cause the waves to be as little as 2 feet high where the water is very deep.

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