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Why Tsunamis Occur

TsunamisBy: Courtney Carr

Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea. Out in the depths of the ocean, tsunami waves do not dramatically increase in height. But as the waves travel inland, they build up to higher and higher heights as the depth of the ocean decreases. The speed of tsunami waves depends on ocean depth rather than the distance from the source of the wave. Tsunami waves may travel as fast as jet planes over deep waters, only slowing down when reaching shallow waters. While tsunamis are often referred to as tidal waves, this name is discouraged by oceanographers because tides have little to do with these giant waves.


Most tsunami are caused by large earthquakes on the sea floor when slabs of rock move past each other suddenly causing the overlying water to move. The resulting waves move away from the source of the earthquake event. Every coastal area and river estuary is potentially threatened by tsunamis, but they are most likely to happen on shores facing directly a megathrust. Scientists estimate that almost three quarter of the world, tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, where the megathrusts (subduction zones) are so common (Aleutian Islands, Alaska, Chile, Philippines, Japan etc).

1."Applying Geoscience to Australia's Most Important Challenges." What Causes Tsunamis? N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/hazards/tsunami/basics/causes>.2. "Where Is a Tsunami Most Likely to Happen? | Tsunamis | Earth Observatory of Singapore." Where Is a Tsunami Most Likely to Happen? | Tsunamis. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://www.earthobservatory.sg/faq-on-earth-sciences/where-tsunami-most-likely-happen>.3. "JAPAN TSUNAMI 2011." YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <https://youtu.be/j0YOXVlPUu4>.4. All my pictures are from Google

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