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What is a tsunami?

Updated: Feb 15

A tsunami is a large ocean wave that is caused by a sudden and large displacement of water, typically from an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide. The word "tsunami" comes from the Japanese words "tsu" which means harbor and "nami" which means wave, and is often referred to as a "tidal wave" but this is a misnomer, as tsunamis have nothing to do with tides. Tsunamis can be extremely destructive and can cause widespread damage and loss of life along coastlines near the epicenter of the event that caused the tsunami.

Tsunamis are usually generated by earthquakes that occur when the sea floor suddenly rises or falls. This movement of the sea floor displaces a large amount of water and sends out a series of waves that travel across the ocean at great speed. These waves can be several meters high and travel at speeds of up to 500 miles per hour (800 km/h) in the open ocean. As the tsunami approaches the shore, the waves slow down and grow in height. This can cause devastating damage when the tsunami reaches the coast. Tsunamis can also be caused by volcanic eruptions, landslides and even meteor impacts.

When a tsunami reaches the coast, it can cause widespread flooding and damage to buildings, infrastructure, and homes. The force of the water can also sweep away cars, boats, and other debris, causing further damage. Tsunamis can also have a significant impact on the environment, such as erosion, sedimentation, and changes to the coastal ecosystem.

Tsunamis are difficult to predict and can strike with little or no warning. However, in areas that are prone to tsunamis, early warning systems have been put in place to help alert people to the potential danger. These systems include seismographs to detect earthquakes, tide gauges to detect changes in sea level, and buoys to detect changes in water movement.

It is important to be aware of the risk of tsunamis and to know what to do in the event of a tsunami warning. This includes staying informed about the latest weather and tsunami warnings, knowing evacuation routes, and having a plan in place for what to do in the event of a tsunami. If a tsunami warning is issued, it is important to immediately evacuate to higher ground and stay away from the coast until the danger has passed.

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