Tsunamis are mysterious, misunderstood and deadly. But what exactly are Tsunami's, how do they form, and what causes them?
What Is A Tsunami
A tsunami consists of a series of giant waves due to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that occur under the sea.
This type of natural event consists of massive waves that are several stories high.
They feature a trough and a crest even though they don't consist of any moving water. The water is propelled by energy.
The speed of tsunamis is comparable to how fast jet planes travel, or up to 500 miles per hour.
They can also be several hundred feet high in the air. Tsunamis occur an average of twice each year in different areas of the world.
Some of the most destructive and damaging tsunamis occur every 15 years.
What Causes A Tsunami
Tsunamis occur when earthquakes trigger sharp movements on the floor of the sea.
There are even rare cases when landslides cause tsunamis to occur. The waves develop when the energy triggered by the earthquake transfers over to the surface of the water.
This can lead to the energy to go in all directions, while some tsunamis only go in one direction.
It can take several minutes or hours for a tsunami to develop, making it challenging for many people to react in time.
The timeframe depends on how far out the earthquake occurs from the shore.
Smaller waves can significantly increase in size when it comes from the open ocean and starts to grow the closer it gets to the shore.
This can cause significant destruction once it reaches the land.
How Do Tsunamis Form
Tsunamis form off the shore due to landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The waves tend to spread out at a rapid rate in deep water. The trough of the tsunami often reaches the land before the peak.
When the wave crest reaches the shallow water, it can slow down to friction that is present in the seabed. It starts to reach significant heights as the water that is moving faster begins to pile behind it.
It only takes a few minutes for the wave height to get higher.
There's not always a crest present in the tsunami. They can often develop into a tide that is moving fast, causing a lot of water to come onto the land and sweep up objects and people in its path.
How To Survive A Tsunami
Although a tsunami can have deadly effects, there are ways to survive it.
Experts recommend getting to high ground as quickly as possible. Don't wait to get a tsunami warning to take action.
Avoid getting too close to any downed power lines or weakened overpasses.
Don't move if you're currently in a Tsunami Hazard Zone.
Once you reach high ground, don't move for up to eight hours because the waves can still continue to come onto the shore.
You can safely return to the coast when officials tell you it's safe. Always travel on foot because roads and bridges can suffer from damage.
If you aren't able to evacuate to a higher area, go to the third floor of a building.
Climbing a tree can also protect your safety if there are no other options available.
If possible, always plan ahead for possible tsunamis.
Know the evacuation route you can take if you ever receive a tsunami warning.
You can also prepare an evacuation kit that you can take with you, which should include a flashlight, warm clothes, water and snacks, medications, important documents, a portable radio, and a silver blanket.
Plan where you can meet your family members ahead of time if you become separated.
Where Do Tsunamis Occur
Some of the most common areas where tsunamis occur are on the shores of Japan, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest.
Approximately 80 percent of all tsunamis occur directly in the Pacific Ocean when the undersea tectonic plate, or the Pacific Ring of Fire, move and shift.
The Biggest Tsunami Recorded
The largest tsunami recorded was the 1958 Lituya Bay earthquake and mega tsunami in Alaska.
It broke records because it had a height of 1,720 feet in the bay. This tsunami occurred on the Fairweather Fault in the Alaska Panhandle.
The severe impact of the tsunami caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to loosen over the northeastern shore of Lituya Bay.
The tsunami was caused by rockfall and an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. Fortunately, there wasn't a significant amount of damage that occurred, and only five people died, including two fishermen in a boat.
The Worst Tsunamis In History
In 2004, a tsunami occurred in Sumatra, Indonesia due to a 9.1 magnitude earthquake.
The sea floor where the fault zone caused the tsunami was vertically displayed. The tsunami caused an estimated $10 billion in damages and killed 230,000 people.
A tsunami occurred off the North Pacific Coast in Japan and was traveling at 497 mph.
The waves reached 10 meters high and killed more than 18,000 people. It was triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was the fourth largest earthquake in history.
In 1755, one of the worst tsunamis occurred Lisbon, Portugal due to an 8.5-magnitude earthquake.
The tsunami killed 60,000 people in different towns in Sprain, Portugal, and Morocco.
How Fast Do Tsunamis Travel
Tsunamis can travel up to 500 mph. They have the ability to cross entire oceans in less than 24 hours. As they approach shallow land, they start to slow down and move as fast as a car.