Articles on Science Matters:
A tsunami is a series of waves created when a body of water, such as an ocean, is rapidly displaced on a massive scale. Earthquakes, mass movements above or below water, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides, large meteorite impacts and testing with nuclear weapons at sea all have the potential to generate a tsunami. The effects of a tsunami can range from unnoticeable to devastating.
The term tsunami comes from the Japanese words (??????) meaning harbor ("tsu",) and wave ("nami", ). Although in Japanese tsunami is used for both the singular and plural, in English tsunamis is often used as the plural. The term was created by fishermen who returned to port to find the area surrounding their harbor devastated, although they had not been aware of any wave in the open water. Tsunami are common throughout Japanese history; approximately 195 events in Japan have been recorded. The word tsunami is pronounced tsu-nah-mee or tsoo-nah-mee; /ts?'n??mi/.
A tsunami has a much smaller amplitude (wave height) offshore, and a very long wavelength (often hundreds of kilometers long), which is why they generally pass unnoticed at sea, forming only a passing "hump" in the ocean. Tsunami have been historically referred to as tidal waves because as they approach land, they take on the characteristics of a violent onrushing tide rather than the sort of cresting waves that are formed by wind action upon the ocean (with which people are more familiar). Since they are not actually related to tides the term is considered misleading and its usage is discouraged by oceanographers. Since not all tsunami occur in harbors, however, that term is equally misleading, although it does have the benefit of being misleading in a different language.
1 1607 - Bristol Channel floods, United Kingdom
2 1700 - Vancouver Island, Canada
3 1755 - Lisbon, Portugal
4 1771 - Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan
5 1792 - Tsunami in Kyushu, Japan caused by a collapsing volcano
6 1868 - Hawai’ian local tsunami generated by earthquake
7 1883 - Krakatoa explosive eruption
8 1896 - Sanriku coast, Japan
9 1917 - Halifax Explosion and tsunami
10 1923 - The Great Kanto Earthquake, Japan
11 1929 - Newfoundland tsunami
12 1933 - Sanriku coast, Japan
13 1944 - Tonankai Earthquake, Japan
14 1946 - Nankai Earthquake, Japan
15 1946 - Pacific tsunami
16 1958 - Lituya Bay Megatsunami
17 1960 - Chilean tsunami
18 1963 Vajont Dam Megatsunami
19 1964 - Good Friday tsunami
20 1976 - Moro Gulf tsunami
21 1979 - Tumaco tsunami
22 1983 - Sea of Japan tsunami
23 1993 - Okushiri tsunami
24 1998 - Papua New Guinea
25 2004 - Indian Ocean tsunami
26 2006 - South of Java Island tsunami
27 2006 - Kuril Islands tsunami
28 2007 - Solomon Islands tsunami
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Causes & Signs Of Tsunami
A Tsunami can be generated when the plate boundaries abruptly deform and vertically displace the overlying water. Such large vertical movements of the Earth’s crust can occur at plate boundaries. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunami.
Submarine landslides (which are sometimes triggered by large earthquakes) as well as collapses of volcanic edifices may also disturb the overlying water column as sediment and rocks slide downslope and are redistributed across the sea floor. Similarly, a violent submarine volcanic eruption can uplift the water column and form a tsunami.
Tsunami's are surface gravity waves that are formed as the displaced water mass moves under the influence of gravity and radiates across the ocean like ripples on a pond.
In the 1950s it was discovered that larger tsunami than previously believed possible could be caused by landslides, explosive volcanic action, and impact events when they contact water. These phenomena rapidly displace large volumes of water, as energy from falling debris or expansion is transferred to the water into which the debris falls. Tsunami caused by these mechanisms, unlike the ocean-wide tsunami caused by some earthquakes, generally dissipate quickly and rarely affect coastlines distant from the source due to the small area of sea affected. These events can give rise to much larger local shock waves (solitons), such as the landslide at the head of Lituya Bay which produced a water wave estimated at 50 – 150 m and reached 524 m up local mountains. However, an extremely large landslide could generate a “megatsunami” that might have ocean-wide impacts.
The geological record tells us that there have been massive tsunami in Earth's past.
There is often no advance warning of an approaching tsunami. However, since earthquakes are often a cause of tsunami, an earthquake felt near a body of water may be considered an indication that a tsunami will shortly follow.
When the first part of a tsunami to reach land is a trough rather than a crest of the wave, the water along the shoreline may recede dramatically, exposing areas that are normally always submerged. This can serve as an advance warning of the approach crest of the tsunami, although the warning arrives only a very short time before the crest, which typically arrives seconds to minutes later.
Although in the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean the sea receding was not reported on the African coast or any other western coasts that it hit, when the tsunami approached from the east.
Tsunami cannot be prevented or precisely predicted, but there are some warning signs of an impending tsunami, and there are many systems being developed and in use to reduce the damage from tsunami.
In instances where the leading edge of the tsunami wave is its trough, the sea will recede from the coast half of the wave's period before the wave's arrival. If the slope is shallow, this recession can exceed many hundreds of meters. People unaware of the danger may remain at the shore due to curiosity, or for collecting fish from the exposed seabed.
Tsunami warning sign on seawall in Kamakura, Japan, 2004. In the Muromachi period , a tsunami struck Kamakura, destroying the wooden building that housed the colossal statue of Amida Buddha at Kotokuin. Since that time, the statue has been outdoors.
Regions with a high risk of tsunami may use tsunami warning systems to detect tsunami and warn the general population before the wave reaches land. In some communities on the west coast of the United States, which is prone to Pacific Ocean tsunami, warning signs advise people where to run in the event of an incoming tsunami. Computer models can roughly predict tsunami arrival and impact based on information about the event that triggered it and the shape of the seafloor (bathymetry) and coastal land (topography).
One of the early warnings comes from nearby animals. Many animals sense danger and flee to higher ground before the water arrives. The Lisbon quake is the first documented case of such a phenomenon in Europe. The phenomenon was also noted in Sri Lanka in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Some scientists speculate that animals may have an ability to sense subsonic Rayleigh waves from an earthquake minutes or hours before a tsunami strikes shore (Kenneally,). More likely, though, is that the certain large animals (e.g., elephants) heard the sounds of the tsunami as it approached the coast. The elephants reactions were to go in the direction opposite of the noise, and thus go inland. Humans, on the other hand, head down to the shore to investigate.
While it is not possible to prevent tsunami, in some particularly tsunami-prone countries some measures have been taken to reduce the damage caused on shore. Japan has implemented an extensive programme of building tsunami walls of up to 4.5 m (13.5 ft) high in front of populated coastal areas. Other localities have built floodgates and channels to redirect the water from incoming tsunami. However, their effectiveness has been questioned, as tsunami are often higher than the barriers. For instance, the tsunami which struck the island of Hokkaido on July 12, 1993 created waves as much as 30 m (100 ft) tall - as high as a 10-story building. The port town of Aonae was completely surrounded by a tsunami wall, but the waves washed right over the wall and destroyed all the wood-framed structures in the area. 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.
The effects of a tsunami can be mitigated by natural factors such as tree cover on the shoreline. Some locations in the path of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami escaped almost unscathed as a result of the tsunami’s energy being sapped by a belt of trees such as coconut palms and mangroves. In one striking example, the village of Naluvedapathy in India's Tamil Nadu region suffered minimal damage and few deaths as the wave broke up on a forest of 80,244 trees planted along the shoreline in 2002 in a bid to enter the Guinness Book of Records. Environmentalists have suggested tree planting along stretches of seacoast which are prone to tsunami risks. While it would take some years for the trees to grow to a useful size, such plantations could offer a much cheaper and longer-lasting means of tsunami mitigation than the costly and environmentally destructive method of erecting artificial barriers.