By | Sep 5, 2007

A tsunami is a series of waves created when a body of water is rapidly displaced. Some causes of tsunami are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and even testing with nuclear weapons at sea.

The term tsunami comes from the Japanese words meaning harbor “tsu” and wave “nami”. 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.

Tsunamis are common in Japan with about 195 recorded events.

A tsunami cannot be prevented or precisely predicted, but there are some warning signs of an impending 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.

The west coast of the United States is prone to an Pacific Ocean tsunami, since the coast lies at the interface between land and the Pacific Ocean making it is a zone of great instability and vulnerability.

The 2004 tsunami is the deadliest in recorded history with over 283,000 killed. Prior to 2004, the deadliest recorded tsunami in the Pacific Ocean was in 1782, when 40,000 people were killed by a tsunami in the South China Sea. The tsunami created by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa is thought to have resulted in 36,000 deaths. The most deadly tsunami between 1900 and 2004 occurred in 1908 in Italy, on the Mediterranean Sea, where the earthquake and tsunami killed 70,000. The most deadly tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean resulted from a earthquake in 1755 at Lisbon, which, combined with the toll from the actual earthquake and resulting fires, killed over 100,000.


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