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 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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  • Q:

    What happens after a tsunami hits?

    A:

    After the initial wave hits land, a large wall of water follows closely behind it. The water slams into the land, then immediately begins to recede, taking many objects on land with it.

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  • Q:

    Can we prevent a tsunami?

    A:

    A tsunami is a natural geohazard that is almost impossible to prevent from forming or occurring. Though it cannot be prevented, damage from a tsunami can be reduced through sophisticated early warning systems, effective response and community preparedness. The United Nations Environment Program also suggests that tsunamis cause less damage in areas where there are natural tsunami barriers, such as coastal vegetation, coral reefs and mangroves.

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  • Q:

    What are the effects of a tsunami?

    A:

    The effects of a tsunami include loss of human and animal life, devastating property damage, severe flooding and disease. There are also environmental effects such as contamination of soil and water, a permanent change to the landscape, solid waste and disaster debris, and hazardous materials and toxic substances.

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