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Kelly Connolly

CRN 33229

Hydrosphere Hazard Map - Tsunamis - Global Scale

Tsunami is the title for a seismic sea wave. They are generated in the ocean by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions
and/or underwater landslides. That said, the majority of tsunamis occur along the “Ring of Fire” that surrounds the
Pacific Ocean, which is a great zone for seismic and volcanic activity. Powerful tsunamis can travel for hundreds of
miles across the deep sea and reach speeds of 450-500 miles per hour. The initial wave formed can be very small, such as
a few inches or a foot high, but as it travels along the ocean, the wave builds taller and faster, possibly reaching an
average of 30 - 70 feet high by the time it nears the shore. The most devastating tsunami recorded was on December 26,
2004 in the Indian Ocean off of the islands of Indonesia, after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck. Hundreds of thousands
of people were killed, as well as hundreds of thousands missing and presumed dead and even more left homeless. Time
is a critical component of mitigating fatalities, by giving people in harms way enough warning to get to the highest
elevation possible, furthest away from the shore. Structural damages are harder to avoid, though some steps such as flood
control can offset some destruction. There have been advancements to warning systems on an international level.
Geophysicists can evaluate the geographic characteristics of a region, such as seismic activity, location, magnitudes and
depth of oceanic floor, to the create geometric formulas and equations to create a model of a growing tsunami, to predict
possible harm. The warning systems gather information from numerous buoys in the ocean and use the data along with
volcanic and earthquake activity to evaluate the level of danger from destruction. Educating people about the tsunamis
can help avoid unnecessary deaths, like people returning to their homes to soon and being caught by subsequent waves
or surges. Often times, the ports and harbors are destroyed, which make it difficult to get rescue and aid relief, as well as
damaging the economy, especially if it is an area that depends on profits from tourism.

Hydrosphere Hazard Map - Tsunamis - Regional Scale

The majority of tsunamis occur along the “Ring of Fire” and roughly 10 % of tsunamis occur in the
Mediterranean Sea, between the African and Eurasian continental plates. Large populations are settled along the
coastlines of countries sharing a border with the Mediterranean Sea. The projection of a large tsunami hitting
southern Italy would affect around 130 million people. After the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004,
countries began to reevaluate and update the tsunami warning systems. The French government supported and
engaged in many of the decisions made to adopt a “decision matrix” for the Northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean
areas while at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 2005. The matrix
helped define the degree of alert, by stating “Information, Advisory, and Watch”, ranging from no tsunami threat, to
limited consequences, to probable flooding of many coastline zones. The two most damaging recorded earthquakes
that caused harmful tsunamis, were the 1755 Lisbon quake and the 1908 Messina quake. The International Tsunami
Information Center (ITIC), was formed in 1965 and work under the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission,
to further the advancements on warning systems for tsunamis, because it is the best tool for lessening the death toll
after these natural disasters occur. Using GIS, researchers can obtain a better understanding of geographic factors to
better predict or simulate the outcome of such a hazard, like a large powerful tsunami and the effects it may have on
humans and other marine life, by using software such as ENVI (Environment for Visualizing Images) and ArcGIS.
Oftentimes they are hitting an area that has recently damaged by and earthquake or volcanic eruption. Hitting many
when they are already down in a vulnerable position. Giving civilians, even as little as ten minutes warning notice
can possibly save thousands of lives.

Hydrosphere Hazard Map - Tsunamis - Local Scale

The local scale map above, focuses on a pattern at the southern most region of Italy, an island known as
Sicily. A vast amount of the tsunamis noted on the map occur near mountainous or volcanic geographic features,
making southern Italy a susceptible to several natural disasters, including tsunamis. An unsolved geological event, is
thought to be of an explosion taking place approximately 8,000 years ago of Mt. Etna on Sicily, that triggered a
tsunami aver 100 feet high at, hitting land of several countries in a matter of hours at speeds of 450 miles per hour.
LiveScience stated when the eruption took place, “six cubic miles or rock and sediment went tumbling into the
water, enough material to cover the island of Manhattan in a layer of debris thicker than the Empire State building”.
The event is often referred to as “Neolithic Etna”. In 1908, a magnitude seven earthquake with struck the cities of
Messina and Reggio Calabria in Italy, with extensive destruction and fatalities from the quake as well as the eight
meter high tsunami that promptly followed that killed about 2,000 people. Tsunamis can be extremely harmful,
leaving behind long lasting consequences, such as the injury or death of hundreds to thousands of people, the
demolition or disrepair of building, damaged ports or harbors, flooding will effect the electricity and plumbing of
cities, roads will be blocked, vehicles broken down from water inundation. A high-speed sizable seismic wave, can
have a negative impact on marine life, leaving wildlife exposed on dry coral or displacement on shore and coral
reefs can break or become buried in sand. While tsunamis are not able to be stopped, monitoring, forecasting and
evaluating possible threats by simulations that consider physical geographic features and human geographic
patterns, are steps that can be taken towards flood control, enforcing an up to date warning system and having an
emergency evacuation plan that includes people getting to highest level of elevation possible. Utilizing such
information and taking proper course of action for safety will significantly decrease the number or potential deaths
and injuries after a tsunami does hit.

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