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How do tsunamis form?

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Tsunamis are massive waves that form when an ocean is disturbed by an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption or other disruptive event. Underwater earthquakes, which occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates, are one of the most common causes of tsunamis. When one plate moves up or down, it displaces water, and it is this displaced water that becomes the tsunami wave.

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How do tsunamis form?
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Tsunamis also form as a result of undersea landslides. The formation process is similar. Displaced water seeks a stable position, and in doing so, creates a tsunami. In rare cases, tsunamis occur when meteors strike the ocean and displace a large amount of water.

Not all earthquakes or landslides result in tsunami waves. Only those that occur with enough violence to displace a large amount of water very quickly have this devastating effect. Tsunamis are not single waves. Instead, they are a series of large waves in quick succession. These waves may not appear large on the open ocean, but as they approach shallow water, they become higher in comparison to the normal water level. Often, they reach distances of a mile or more offshore, causing destruction in their paths. Because of the large amount of water brought on shore, it takes many hours or days for the water levels to recede after a tsunami.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where do tsunamis form?

    A:

    A tsunami begins above an undersea earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption along the ocean floor, explains Lisa Gardiner of the National Earth Science Teachers Association. In the case of an earthquake, when the movement along a fault moves the seafloor upward, water also pushes upward and becomes a tsunami wave.

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  • Q:

    How many people died as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami?

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    Over 150,000 people died as a result of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which is the deadliest tsunami as of January 2015. Out of the 150,000 people who perished during the tsunami, it is believed that up to 50,000 were children. Those who were not killed by being slammed into structures or being crushed by debris were likely swept out to sea when the ocean withdrew.

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  • Q:

    How does an earthquake form?

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    Earthquakes happen when the boundaries of the Earth's tectonic plates bump and slide past one another; sometimes, they get stuck on jagged edges and cause earthquakes once they are released. These earthquakes are always followed by aftershocks starting from the same epicenter.

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  • Q:

    What kind of damage can a tsunami cause?

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    Tsunamis can cause tremendous destruction of property and loss of lives. They can completely destroy buildings and leave towns in a devastated state. Small tsunamis are non-destructive, and they happen frequently due to minor earthquakes; however, large tsunamis reach incredible heights, and they savagely attack coastlines.

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