OCT 22, 2016 07:54 AM PDT

How do tsunamis form?


The immense swell of a tsunami can grow up to 100 feet, hitting speeds over 500 mph -- a treacherous combination for anyone or anything in its path. Tsunamis can be compared to normal waves in the sense that they are energy moving through water. However, in normal waves this energy comes from wind, which only moves across the surface of the water. In tsunamis, the energy comes from an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, or submarine landslide. In this case, an enormous amount of energy is displaced and makes the sea level rise, only to have gravity bring it back down, thus creating a ripple outwards horizontally. Hence you can see that although tsunamis are sometimes called tidal waves, they actually are not related to tides at all.

When a tsunami is far from shore, sometimes it can be barely visible, because it moves throughout the depths of the ocean. Yet when it reaches shallower waters, wave shoaling occurs. This means that waves are compressed and the height of the tsunami grows substantially. If the trough of the wave hits the shore first, the wave can retreat in a dangerously misleading way and then hit shore suddenly and intensely. Tsunamis have caused destruction around the world because of their unpredictability and ability to affect those living up to a mile inland of the ocean.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 07, 2018
Here's How Far Your Sneeze Can Travel
When you get stuck with a cold or the flu, sneezes are inevitable. But have you ever wondered how far your sneezes travel? As it turns out, your sneeze may...
NOV 17, 2018
Videos
NOV 17, 2018
Using Genetic Research to Improve Animal Conservation and Care
A group of Peters's Angolan colobus monkeys were brought to US zoos from East Africa in the 80s, but little is known about them....
NOV 25, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 25, 2018
Why Does E. Coli Make us Sick?
  Escherichia coli, or E. coli refer to a diverse group of of bacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of warm blooded animals. While E. coli ga...
NOV 29, 2018
Videos
NOV 29, 2018
Screening IVF Embryos for Low IQ
A new test purports to be able to identify embryos with a high chance of having a low IQ....
DEC 09, 2018
Videos
DEC 09, 2018
Retina Organoids Help Researchers Learn More About Color Vision
Researchers are growing mini-retinas to learn more about color vision, and why it's dysfunctional in some people....
DEC 15, 2018
Videos
DEC 15, 2018
How Bacteria Help Clean the Georgia Aquarium
At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the waste generated by over 700 species of animals has to be filtered out of the aquatic environment....
Loading Comments...