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, lit. "harbor wave"; English
pronunciation: /tsu n mi /, tsoo-NAH-mee or /su n mi /, soo-NAH-mee), also called a tsunami wave train, or less frequently a tidal wave, is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, usually an ocean, though it can occur in large lakes. Tsunamis are a frequent occurrence in Japan; approximately 195 events have been recorded. Owing to the immense volumes of water and the high energy involved, tsunamis can devastate coastal regions. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations of underwater nuclear devices), landslides and other mass movements, meteorite ocean impacts or similar impact events, and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. The Greek historian Thucydides was the first to relate tsunami to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of a tsunami's nature remained slim until the 20th century and is the subject of ongoing research. Many early geological, geographical, and oceanographic texts refer to tsunamis as "seismic sea waves." Some meteorological conditions, such as deep depressions that cause tropical cyclones, can generate a storm surge, called a meteotsunami, which can raise tides several metres above normal levels. The displacement comes from low atmospheric pressure within the centre of the depression. As these storm surges reach shore, they may resemble (though are not) tsunamis, inundating vast areas of land. The term tsunami comes from the Japanese "harbor" and , composed of the two kanji (tsu) meaning
(nami), meaning "wave". (For the plural, one can either follow ordinary English
practice and add an s, or use an invariable plural as in the Japanese.) Tsunami are sometimes referred to as tidal waves. In recent years, this term has fallen out of favor, especially in the scientific community, because tsunami actually have nothing to do with tides. The once-popular term derives from their most common appearance, which is that of an extraordinarily high tidal bore. Tsunami and tides both produce waves of water that move inland, but in the case of tsunami the inland movement of water is much greater and lasts for a longer period, giving the impression of an incredibly high tide. Although the meanings of "tidal" include "resembling" or "having the form or character of" the tides, and the term tsunami is no more accurate because tsunami are not limited to harbours, use of the term tidal wave is discouraged by geologists and oceanographers. There are only a few other languages that have an equivalent native word. In the Tamil language, the word is aazhiperalai. In the Acehnese language, it is iëbeuna or alônbuluëk (Depending on the dialect. Note that in the fellow Austronesian language of Tagalog, a major language in the Philippines, alonmeans "wave".) On Simeulue island, off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, in the Defayan language the word is smong, while in the Sigulai language it is emong.
10. landslides. causes the inundation.As early as 426 B. Alaska. Movement on normal faults will also cause displacement of the seabed. a magnitude-7. More specifically. but the size of the largest of such events is normally too small to give rise to a significant tsunami. in my opinion. tsunami devastated Alexandria. the Greek historian Thucydides inquired in his book History of the Peloponnesian War about the causes of tsunami. The Roman historian AmmianusMarcellinus (Res Gestae 26. the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. after the 365 A. They grow in height when they reach shallower water. causing tectonic uplift. Tsunami generated by seismicity Tsunami can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. and was the first to argue that ocean earthquakes must be the cause. into water.C. strain. resulting in water displacement. or more rarely by meteorites and nuclear tests. The area where the earthquake occurred is where the Pacific Ocean floor is subducting (or being pushed downwards) under Alaska.000 years 2 . The cause. Overriding plate bulges under Plate slips. the sudden retreat of the sea and a following gigantic wave. a tsunami can be generated when thrust faults associated with convergent or destructive plate boundaries move abruptly.8 (Richter Scale) earthquake occurred near the Aleutian Islands. The waves formed in this way are then sustained by gravity. 1946. of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. and suddenly recoiling with redoubled force. in a wave shoaling process described below.D. and a very long wavelength (often hundreds of kilometers long). including an incipient earthquake. It is important to note that tides do not play any part in the generation of tsunamis. owing to the vertical component of movement involved. This displacement of water is usually attributed to either earthquakes. Drawing of tectonic plate boundary before earthquake. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen. Generation mechanisms The principal generation mechanism (or cause) of a tsunami is the displacement of a substantial volume of water or perturbation of the sea. It generated a tsunami which inundated Hilo on the island of Hawai'i with a 14 metres (46 ft) high surge. Examples of tsunami at locations away from convergent boundaries include Storegga about 8. On April 1. which is why they generally pass unnoticed at sea. volcanic eruptions.15-19) described the typical sequence of a tsunami. forming only a slight swell usually about 300 millimetres (12 in) above the normal sea surface. causing subsidence and releasing energy The energy released produces tsunami waves. when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea. At the point where its shock has been the most violent the sea is driven back. Tsunamis have a small amplitude (wave height) offshore. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth's crustal deformation. A tsunami can occur in any tidal state and even at low tide can still inundate coastal areas.
Since the wave still has the same very longperiod.0) are recent examples of powerful megathrust earthquakes that generated tsunamis (known as teletsunamis) that can cross entire oceans. Tsunamis cause damage by two mechanisms: the smashing force of a wall of water travelling at high speed. The Grand Banks and Papua New Guinea tsunamis came from earthquakes which destabilized sediments. This makes tsunamis difficult to detect over deep water. when a giant landslide in Lituya Bay. but owing to the enormous wavelength the wave oscillation at any given point takes 20 or 30 minutes to complete a cycle and has an amplitude of only about 1 metre (3. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake (Mw 9. it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases. Scientists discovered that extremely large landslides from volcanic island collapses can generate megatsunamis that can cross oceans. and the destructive power of a large volume of water draining off the land and carrying all with it. the 3 . They dissipated before traveling transoceanic distances. As the tsunami approaches the coast and the waters become shallow.) The 1960 Valdivia earthquake (Mw 9. Smaller (Mw 4. a tsunami in the deep ocean has a wavelength of about 200 kilometres (120 mi). Alaska. Characteristics When the wave enters shallow water. Two people fishing in the bay were killed. causing them to flow into the ocean and generate a tsunami. The wave didn't travel far. Such a wave travels at well over 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph).6 ft). which had a height of 524 metres (over 1700 feet).2). Scientists named these waves megatsunami. wave shoaling compresses the wave and its velocity slows below 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). but can do so in only a few minutes. 2001). Grand Banks 1929. as energy from falling debris or expansion transfers to the water at a rate faster than the water can absorb. The cause of the Storegga sediment failure is unknown. as it struck land almost immediately. but another boat amazingly managed to ride the wave. While everyday wind waves have a wavelength (from crest to crest) of about 100 metres (330 ft) and a height of roughly 2 metres (6. Their existence was confirmed in 1958. In the 1950s. 1964 Alaska earthquake (Mw 9. Its wavelength diminishes to less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) and its amplitude grows enormously. Papua New Guinea 1998 (Tappin.2) earthquakes in Japan can trigger tsunamis (called local and regional tsunamis) that can only devastate nearby coasts. Ships rarely notice their passage. caused the highest wave ever recorded.3 ft).5) (19:11 hrs UTC).ago. the tsunami may take minutes to reach full height. These phenomena rapidly displace large water volumes. it was discovered that larger tsunamis than had previously been believed possible could be caused by giant landslides. even if the wave did not look large. Possibilities include an overloading of the sediments. Except for the very largest tsunamis. an earthquake or a release of gas hydrates (methane etc.2) (00:58:53 UTC) and 2011 T hoku earthquake (Mw9. The wave further slows and amplifies as it hits land. Only the largest waves crest.
who calculated the Tsunami intensity I according to the formula whereHav is the average wave height along the nearest coast. including lakes. several attempts have been made to set up scales of tsunami intensity or magnitude to allow comparison between different events. and people unaware of the danger sometimes remain near the shore to satisfy their curiosity or to collect fish from the exposed seabed. Abe introduced the tsunami magnitude scale Mt. rather than an intensity at a particular location was the ML scale proposed by Murty& Loomis based on the potential energy. A drawback occurs because the water propagates outwards with the trough of the wave at its front. A large tsunami may feature multiple waves arriving over a period of hours.approaching wave does not break. Magnitude scales The first scale that genuinely calculated a magnitude for a tsunami. About 80% of tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean. Scales of intensity and magnitude As with earthquakes. If the first part of a tsunami to reach land is a trough ²called a drawback²rather than a wave crest. Difficulties in calculating the potential energy of the tsunami mean that this scale is rarely used. used in the Pacific Ocean. Drawback can exceed hundreds of metres. and bolides. 4 . calculated from. Drawback begins before the wave arrives at an interval equal to half of the wave's period. volcanic explosions. Drawback Wave animation showing the initial "drawback" of surface water. This scale. They are caused by earthquakes. but they are possible wherever there are large bodies of water. used in the Mediterranean Sea and the Imamura-Iida intensity scale. Open bays and coastlines adjacent to very deep water may shape the tsunami further into a step-like wave with a steepbreaking front. The latter scale was modified by Soloviev. but rather appears like a fast-moving tidal bore. exposing normally submerged areas. Intensity scales The first scales used routinely to measure the intensity of tsunami were the Sieberg-Ambraseys scale. the water along the shoreline recedes dramatically. Run up is measured in metres above a reference sea level. When the tsunami's wave peak reaches the shore. The first wave to reach the shore may not have the highest run up. with significant time between the wave crests. known as the SolovievImamura tsunami intensity scale. the resulting temporary rise in sea level is termed run up. is used in the global tsunami catalogues compiled by the NGDC/NOAA and the Novosibirsk Tsunami Laboratory as the main parameter for the size of the tsunami. landslides.
Geologists. Warnings and predictions One of the deep waterbuoys used in the DART tsunami warning system Drawbacks can serve as a brief warning. She credited her geography teacher. In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami drawback was not reported on the African coast or any other eastern coasts it reached. However. The western pulse hit coastal Africa and other western areas. This is deduced through the calculation: where P = the overlying pressure in newtons per metresquare. not all earthquakes 5 . In Japan. there are some warning signs of an impending tsunami. was on Maikhao beach in Phuket. and automated systems can provide warnings immediately after an earthquake in time to save lives. g = the acceleration due to gravity= 9. Regions with a high tsunami risk typically use tsunami warning systems to warn the population before the wave reaches land.1 x 10 kg/m . Hawai i. and having learned about tsunamis recently in school. England. a.000 m depth the overlying pressure is equal to or about 5500 tonnes-force per square metre. The Pacific Tsunami Warning System is based in Honolulu. Her parents warned others minutes before the wave arrived.whereh is the maximum tsunami-wave amplitude (in m) measured by a tide gauge at a distance R from the epicenter. Hence for a water column of 5. On the west coast of the United States. A tsunami cannot be precisely predicted. One of the most successful systems uses bottom pressure sensors that are attached to buoys. People who observe drawback (many survivors report an accompanying sucking sound). While the subduction zones around the Pacific are seismically active. The sensors constantly monitor the pressure of the overlying water column. and along the Japanese shorelines the tsunami warning signs are reminders of the natural hazards together with a network of warning sirens. A sufficiently large earthquake magnitude and other information triggers a tsunami warning.8 m/s and h = the height of the water column in metres. It monitors Pacific Ocean seismic activity. and seismologistsanalyse each earthquake and based on many factors may or may not issue a tsunami warning. typically at the top of the cliff of surroundings hills. even if the magnitude and location of an earthquake is known. oceanographers. can survive only if they immediately run for high ground or seek the upper floors of nearby buildings. which is prone to Pacific Ocean tsunami. the community is well-educated about earthquakes and tsunamis. warning signs indicate evacuation routes. In 2004. saving dozens of lives. Thailand with her parents and sister. told her family that a tsunami might be imminent. ten-year old Tilly Smith of Surrey. 3 3 2 = the density of the seawater= 1. This was because the wave moved downwards on the eastern side of the fault line and upwards on the western side. b&D are constants used to make the Mt scale match as closely as possible with the moment magnitude scale. Andrew Kearney.
Some locations in the path of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami escaped almost unscathed because trees such as coconut palms and 6 . For instance. local authorities. Based on these pressure readings and other seismic information and the seafloor's shape (bathymetry) and coastal topography. 2004. However. There are unsubstantiated claims about the Lisbon quake that some animals escaped to higher ground. usually within minutes of the arrival time.5 metres (15 ft) to protect populated coastal areas. By contrast. Tsunami hazard sign at Bamfield. Laupahoehoe. a re-appraisal of the tsunami threat for all coastal areas is being undertaken by national governments and the United Nations Disaster Mitigation Committee. the models estimate the amplitude and surge height of the approaching tsunami. However. That country has built many tsunami walls of up to 4. Bottom pressure sensors relay information in real time. as tsunami often overtop the barriers. 1993 created waves as much as 30 metres (100 ft) tall²as high as a 10-story building. In Japan. If correct.. The elephants' reaction was to move away from the approaching noise. some humans went to the shore to investigate and many drowned as a result. Japan. such preparation is mandatory for government. monitoring their behavior could provide advance warning of earthquakes. The wall may have succeeded in slowing down and moderating the height of the tsunami. but it did not prevent major destruction and loss of life. Route 101. the evidence is controversial and is not widely accepted. Hokkaid tsunami which struck Okushiri Island of Hokkaid within two to five minutes of the earthquake on July 12. British Columbia seawall in Kamakura. Other localities have built floodgates and channels to redirect the water from incoming tsunami. The port town of Aonae was completely surrounded by a tsunami wall. Hawaii A tsunami warning sign on a The monument to the victims of tsunami at Tsunami memorial in Kanyakumari beach Tsunami Evacuation Route signage along U. in some tsunami-prone countries some earthquake engineering measures have been taken to reduce the damage caused on shore. Some zoologists hypothesise that some animal species have an ability to sense subsonic Rayleigh waves from an earthquake or a tsunami. has produced ever-more elaborate countermeasures and response plans. their effectiveness has been questioned.g. It is not possible to prevent a tsunami. Computer models can predict tsunami arrival. The phenomenon was also noted by media sources in Sri Lanka in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. emergency services and the population.  Natural factors such as shoreline tree cover can mitigate tsunami effects.generate tsunami. in Washington As a direct result of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Computers assist in analysing the tsunami risk of every earthquake that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and the adjoining land masses. the Okushiri. but the waves washed right over the wall and destroyed all the wood-framed structures in the area. It is possible that certain animals (e. Japan. tsunami etc. while many other animals in the same areas drowned. where tsunami science and response measures first began following a disaster in 1896. All Pacific Rim countries collaborate in the Tsunami Warning System and most regularly practice evacuation and other procedures.S. elephants) may have heard the sounds of the tsunami as it approached the coast. A tsunami warning system is being installed in the Indian Ocean. However.
Trees require years to grow to a useful size. Large tsunamis have been known to rise over 100 feet. Japan and other areas in the Pacific. the village of Naluvedapathy in India's Tamil Nadu region suffered only minimal damage and few deaths because the wave broke against a forest of 80. knowing the right information may save your life and the lives of those you love. the New Zealand Military Forces initiated Project Seal. The purpose of this brochure is to increase awareness and knowledge of tsunamis. but such plantations could offer a much cheaper and longerlasting means of tsunami mitigation than artificial barriers. Consequences Tsunamis are a threat to life and property to anyone living near the ocean. The phenomenon we call "tsunami" (soo-NAH-mee) is a series of traveling ocean waves of extremely long length generated by disturbances associated primarily with earthquakes occurring below or near the ocean floor. 7 . In deep water. the attempt failed. Environmentalists have suggested tree planting along tsunami-prone seacoasts. the waves may reach speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour. Indonesia and Japan. Underwater volcanic eruptions and landslides can also generate tsunamis. Property damage was nearly one billion dollars. such as mangroves.244 trees planted along the shoreline in 2002 in a bid to enter the Guinness Book of Records. coral reefs or coastal vegetation. while tsunamis 10 to 20 feet high can be very destructive and cause many deaths and injuries. They cannot be felt aboard ships nor can they be seen from the air in the open ocean. A Japanese study of this tsunami in Sri Lanka used satellite imagery modelling to establish the parameters of coastal resistance as a function of different types of trees. Mitigation Natural barriers A report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggests that the tsunami of 26th December 2004 caused less damage in the areas where natural barriers were present. Hawaii. In World War II. As a weapon There have been studies and at least one attempt to create tsunami waves as a weapon. The 1960 Chile Earthquake generated a Pacific-wide tsunami that caused widespread death and destruction in Chile. in 1992 and 1993 over 2. which attempted to create small tsunamis with explosives in the area of today's Shakespear Regional Park. their length from wave crest to wave crest may be a hundred miles or more but with a wave height of only a few feet or less. Please share what you learn. In one striking example.000 people were killed by tsunamis occurring in Nicaragua. For example. In the deep ocean.mangroves absorbed the tsunami's energy.
these tsunamis can travel from one side of the Pacific to the other. 8 ." The great size of the Pacific Ocean and the large earthquakes associated with the "ring of fire" combine to produce deadly tsunamis. PTWC provides tsunami warning information to national authorities in the Pacific Basin. the tsunami threat to many areas (Alaska. destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along the margins of the Pacific Ocean. infrequently by submarine volcanic eruptions and very rarely by a large meteorite impact in the ocean. tidal waves. For these reasons. killing thousands of people and wiping out numerous coastal villages. All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) is the operational center of the Pacific TWS. less commonly by submarine landslides. Howe ver. The Pacific Ocean is the world's largest. also called seismic sea waves or. West Coast) can be immediate (for tsunamis from nearby earthquakes taking only a few minutes to reach coastal areas) or less urgent (for tsunamis from distant earthquakes taking from 3 to 22 hours to reach coastal areas). comprised of 26 participating international Member States. Japan or the U.S. generally are caused by earthquakes. people living near areas where large earthquakes occur may find that the tsunami waves will reach their shores within minutes of the earthquake. the Philippines. Hawaii. but in the Pacific Ocean there is a much more frequent occurrence of large. The Great Krakatau Volcanic Eruption of 1883 generated giant waves reaching heights of 125 feet above sea-level. Ring of Fire About two-thirds of the earth is covered by the waters of the four oceans. sometimes called a "ring of fire.The Tsunami Warning System (TWS) in the Pacific. be large and create movements in the sea floor. monitors seismological and tidal stations throughout the Pacific Basin. The Pacific Ocean is surrounded by a series of mountain chains. In less than a day. The System evaluates potentially tsunamigenic earthquakes and disseminates tsunami warning information. Tsunamis. Submarine volcanic eruptions have the potential to produce truly awesome tsunami waves. Located in Honolulu. To generate tsunamis. The 1992 Nicaragua tsunami may have been the result of a "slow" earthquake comprised of very longperiod movement occurring beneath the sea floor. This earthquake generated a devastating tsunami with localized damage to coastal communities in Nicaragua. covering more than one third of the total surface area of our planet. Not all earthquakes generate tsunamis. earthquakes must occur underneath or near the ocean. deep ocean trenches and island arcs. incorrectly.
The earthquake's magnitude and depth. a tsunami. water depth in the region of tsunami generation. Earthquakes occur where the edges of plates run into one another. leaving thousands of people confirmed dead. and millions more affected by lack of electricity. the Kuril Islands. a large earthquake is produced and. rapid faulting occurs underneath or near the ocean. This page is being updated continuously to provide the latest information about this crisis. Examples of features produced by forces released along plate edge faults are the Andes Mountains in South America (on land) and the Aleutian Trench near Alaska (under water). The deep ocean trenches off the coasts of Alaska. the amount of vertical motion of the sea floor. water and transportation. only an inch or two per year. Sometimes the forces along faults can build-up over long periods of time so that when the rocks finally break an earthquake occurs. Russia.0-magnitude earthquake occurred near the northeastern coast of Japan. such as: earthquakes landslide volcanic eruptions explosions meteorites 9 . injured or missing. resources for those affected.Earth and Earthquakes The continents and sea floor that cover the earth's surface are part of a world-wide system of plates that are in motion. The tsunami generating process is more complicated than a sudden push against the column of ocean water. possibly. and South America are well known for their violent underwater earthquakes and as the source area for destructive Pacific-wide tsunamis. the velocity of such motion. These motions are very slow. The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan. Such edges are called fault lines or faults.. When powerful. On March 11 at 2:46pm JST a massive 9. and ways to contribute to relief efforts in Japan. creating extremely destructive tsunami waves which hit Japan just minutes after the earthquake. and triggering evacuations and warnings across the Pacific Ocean. whether there is coincident slumping of sediments and the efficiency with which energy is transferred from the earth's crust to ocean water are all part of the generation mechanism. What is a tsunami? A tsunami is a series of ocean waves with very long wavelengths (typically hundreds of kilometres) caused by large-scale disturbances of the ocean.
This is called shoaling.g. you will know that a tsunami travels at a speed that is related to the water depth . so a tsunami will therefore travel at around 200 m/s. A wave becomes a shallowwater wave when the wavelength is very large compared to the water depth. underwater earthquakes with large vertical displacements. What happens to a tsunami as it approaches land? As a tsunami leaves the deep water of the open-ocean and travels into the shallower water near the coast. For tsunamis that are generated by underwater earthquakes. tsunamis have been referred to as "tidal waves" or "seismic sea waves". sun.8 m/s 2) and H is the depth of water. The physics of a tsunami Tsunamis can have wavelengths ranging from 10 to 500 km and wave periods of up to an hour. its height grows. which is dependent on both its wave speed and wave height. Tsunami is a Japanese word with the English translation: "harbour wave". but a tsunami can also be caused by a non-seismic event. the amplitude (i. may grow to 10 . Consequently. Shallow-water waves move at a speed. such as a landslide or meteorite impact.g. that is dependent upon the water depth and is given by the formula: whereg is the acceleration due to gravity (= 9.e wave height) of the tsunami is determined by the amount by which the sea-floor is displaced. a tsunami that is unnoticeable at sea. it transforms. the typical water depth is around 4000 m. tsunamis can also travel large distances with limited energy losses. c. (Tides result from the gravitational influences of the moon. as the tsunami's speed diminishes. In the deep ocean. the tsunami slows. and planets.These disturbances can either be from below (e. As well as travelling at high speeds. remains nearly constant. In the past.hence. the wave crests can undergo refraction (bending). meteorite impacts). Similarly. which is caused by segments of the wave moving at different speeds as the water depth along the wave crest varies. submarine landslides) or from above (e. even though they are quite different phenomena. tsunamis act as shallow-water waves. the wavelength and period of the tsunami are determined by the size and shape of the underwater disturbance. Because of this shoaling effect. tsunamis are unrelated to the tides. even though a tsunami's impact upon a coastline is dependent upon the tidal level at the time a tsunami strikes.) The term "seismic sea wave" is also misleading. As a result of their long wavelengths. The tsunami's energy flux. "Seismic" implies an earthquake-related generation mechanism. or more than 700 km/h. as the water depth decreases. As the tsunami propagates across the ocean. A storm surge is a rapid rise in coastal sea-level caused by a significant meteorological event .these are often associated with tropical cyclones. Tsunamis are also often confused with storm surges. The term "tidal wave" is misleading. If you read the "The physics of a tsunami" section.
as shown in these observations made during December. while the shoreward-propagating wave energy is dissipated through bottom friction and turbulence. or flooding. Most of the tide gauges operated by the Bureau of Meteorology's National Tidal Centre are SEAFRAME stations (Sea Level Fine Resolution Acoustic Measuring Equipment). stripping beaches of sand that may have taken years to accumulate and undermining trees and other coastal vegetation.part of the wave energy is reflected offshore. of tens of metres.be several metres or more in height near the coast. So a tsunami with a height of 1 m in the open ocean where the water depth is 4000m would have a waveheight of 4 to 5 m in water of depth 10 m. These consist of an acoustic sensor connected to a vertical tube open at the lower end which is in the water. or steepness of the wave is very small. How are tsunamis measured or observed? In the deep ocean. Tide Gauges Tide gauges measure the height of the sea-surface and are primarily used for measuring tide levels. Tsunamis have great erosion potential. Depending on whether the first part of the tsunami to reach the shore is a crest or a trough. Just like other water waves. and is then reflected back up the tube. a tsunami has a small amplitude (less than 1 metre) but very long wavelength (hundreds of kilometres). The tide gauge at Cocos Island observed the tsunami on December 26th 2004 as it passed by the island. Local bathymetry may also cause the tsunami to appear as a series of breaking waves. the fast-moving water associated with the inundating tsunami can crush homes and other coastal structures. tsunamis still reach the coast with tremendous amounts of energy. The increase of the tsunami's waveheight as it enters shallow water is given by: wherehs and hd are waveheights in shallow and deep water and Hs and Hd are the depths of the shallow and deep water. hundreds of metres inland past the typical high-water level. Tsunamis may reach a maximum vertical height onshore above sea level. so it is practically undetectable to the human eye. often called a run-up height. The distance to the water level can then be calculated using the travel time of the pulse. Capable of inundating. it may appear as a rapidly rising or falling tide. Despite these losses. This means that the slope. Satellites Satellite altimeters measure the height of the ocean surface directly by the use of electro-magnetic pulses. tsunamis begin to lose energy as they rush onshore . This system filters out small -scale effects like wind-waves and has the capacity to measure sea-level changes within 1mm accuracy. However. These are sent down to the ocean surface from the satellite and the height of the ocean 11 . The acoustic sensor emits a sound pulse which travels from the top of the tube down to the water surface. there are ocean observing instruments that are able to detect tsunamis.
(The pressure of the water column is related to the height of the sea-surface) . These stations give detailed information about tsunamis while they are still far off shore. reaching as far as Somalia on the east coast of Africa. This animation (10. The picture below shows the height of the sea surface (in blue) measured by the Jason satellite two hours after the initial earthquake hit the region southeast of Sumatra (shown in red) on December 26. The data shown are the differences in sea surface height from previous observations made along the same track 20-30 days before the earthquake. With a magnitude of 9.4Mb) was produced by scientists in the Bureau of Meteorology's National Tidal Centre. Refraction and diffraction of the waves meant that the impact of the tsunami was noticed around the world and sea-level monitoring stations in places such as Brazil and Queensland also felt the effect of the tsunami. The waves devastated the shores of parts of Indonesia. An array of stations is currently deployed in the Pacific Ocean. Each station consists of a sea-bed bottom pressure recorder which detects the passage of a tsunami. However. One problem with this kind of satellite data is that it can be very sparse . A numerical model was used to replicate the generation and propagation of the tsunami and it shows how the waves propagated around the world's ocean basins.surface can be determined by knowing the speed of the pulse. The data is then transmitted to a surface buoy via sonar. The surface buoy then radios the information to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) via satellite. Over 200. so you would be lucky to spot a tsunami since they travel so quickly. The system has considerably improved the forecasting and warning of tsunamis in the Pacific. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 26th December 2004 An undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean on 26th December 2004 produced a tsunami that caused one of the biggest natural disasters in modern history. Thailand and other countries with waves reported up to 15 m high.000 people are known to have lost their lives.0 on the Richter scale. the location of the satellite and measuring the time that the pulse takes to return to the satellite. it was the largest since the 12 . the Jason satellite altimeter happened to be in the right place at the right time. The earthquake took place at about 1am UTC (8am local time) in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of northern Sumatra. during the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26th 2004.some satellites only pass over a particular location about once a month. The bottom pressure recorder lasts for two years while the surface buoy is replaced every year. India. 2004. The DART System In 1995 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began developing the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) system. 4500 km west of the epicentre. showing the signals of the tsunami. The data were taken by a radar altimeter on board the satellite along a track traversing the Indian Ocean when the tsunami waves had just filled the entire Bay of Bengal. Sri Lanka.
causing vertical motion of the plates. It was a rare megathrust earthquake and occurred on the interface of the India and Burma tectonic plates. On its arrival on shore. The earthquake was also unusually large in geographical extent. which lies at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal. This was caused by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate subducts beneath the overriding Burma plate. An estimated 1200 km of faultline slipped about 15 m along the subduction zone over a period of several minutes. while Sri Lanka and the east coast of India were hit roughly two hours later. the height of the tsunami varied greatly. the greatest strength of the waves was in an east-west direction. Reports have the height ranging form 2-3 m at the African coast (Kenya) up to 10-15 m at Sumatra. Bangladesh. which caused damage over such a large area around the Indian Ocean. Due to the distances involved.1964 earthquake off Alaska and equal fourth largest since 1900. because the tsunami travelled more slowly in the shallow Andaman Sea off its western coast. (See this travel time map). The epicentre of the earthquake was located about 250 km south-southeast of the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh. A megathrust earthquake is where one tectonic plate slips beneath another. 13 . when accurate global seismographic record-keeping began. Because the 1. had very few casualties despite being a populous low-lying country. depending on its distance and direction from the epicentre and other factors such as the local bathymetry. The northern regions of the Indonesian island of Sumatra were hit very quickly. despite being closer to the epicentre. This large vertical displacement of the sea-floor generated the devastating tsunami. the region closest to theepicentre.200 km of faultline affected by the quake was in a nearly north-south orientation. the tsunami took anywhere from fifteen minutes to seven hours (for Somalia) to reach the various coastlines. Thailand was also struck about two hours later.
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