Is There Anything Scarier than a Tsunami?

What on earth scares you? (Pun intended).

Many would answer war, hunger, terrorism, poverty and even death. Things like these make the havoc wrecked by natural disasters quite puny. Every once in a while we hear about a cyclone killing hundreds, a volcanic eruption that destroys villages, a severe earthquake that brings mass destruction and death or a tsunami that just sweeps away entire towns along its path.

Natural disasters are a reminder that we are only human. That even the best defenses cannot save us from the forces of nature. And the tsunami happens to be one of the most fascinating natural disasters to study.

A tsunami is a sequence of oceanic waves forming due to an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or a landslide that occurs under the surface of the sea. The underwater world is a mysterious one and yes they do have mountains down there too! There are times, although rare when these waves are the result of the impact of a giant meteor that falls into the ocean.

The waves of a tsunami can reach a height of or more than One Hundred Feet!

Ever wondered what causes a tsunami?

Tsunami is a Japanese word. It translates to “harbor wave” (tsu=harbor + name=wave). The Pacific Ocean has the “Ring of Fire” which is the most tsunami prone region in the entire world, with around 80% tsunamis occurring there – a reason why Japan has a long history of tsunamis.

However, the worst tsunami in history occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004. It was caused by an earthquake that equates to twenty-three thousand atomic bombs. The waves originating from the core of this tsunami wreaked havoc on the coastal areas of 11 different countries that included India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Maldives, South Africa, Kenya and Somalia. The death toll reached a tragic count of 283,000 lives.   

It is observed that the first wave of the tsunami is usually not the most powerful one; the ones that follow gain strength, height and destructive momentum. The average speed of a tsunami has been recorded around five hundred miles per hour – at that speed, it can almost compete a jet plane!

In the United States, the states that are most exposed to the risk of a tsunami include Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, California and Alaska. Out of these states, Hawaii that is most prone to the tsunami. On an average, the state gets at least one tsunami each year and there is a severe one that hits them every seven years. The worst tsunami to ever hit Hawaii was one that occurred back in 1946. It hit the Hilo Island at a speed of five hundred miles per hour with waves as much as thirty feet high!

How Tsunamis are Created (Wikipedia Public Domain)

Tsunamis don’t lose their energy as they travel. They could cross entire oceans without losing their momentum. Unlike other natural disasters, it is possible to predict the estimated time for the tsunami to hit. Scientists can derive that based on a calculation related to water depth, distances and the timing of the cause.


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