What is a Tsunami? Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about tsunamis.

  • A tsunami is a huge wave caused by a large volume of water being displaced. It can be caused by an underwater explosion, earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption.

  • The name tsunami comes from the Japanese words for harbour wave. The earliest person to understand what caused these huge waves was the Ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, in a book written in 426 BC.
  • About 80 percent of all tsunamis occur around the edge of the Pacific Ocean, especially near Japan. They have only struck Europe twice, most recently in 1755.
  • A tsunami can travel thousands of km across the ocean without losing power. Waves can reach hundreds of metres in height and can travel at speeds of 800 kmh.
  • Japan has taken steps to protect the country from tsunamis, building walls up to 12 metres high, and floodgates up to 15 metres high. However, waves have often gone over these barriers.
  • The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed about 230,000 people. The wave also uncovered the remains of a lost city, Mahabalipuram, thought to be 1,500 years old.
  • Tsunamis cannot be accurately predicted, although there are warning signs. Just before the 2004 wave hit Thailand, a 10 year old girl was able to warn dozens of people.
  • Some scientists think that a huge tsunami caused by a meteorite hit the earth over 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists also think a huge tsunami may one day hit the eastern United States.
  • In 1964, a 7 metre high wave hit the western US and Canada, caused by an earthquake. Hawaii is the US state most at risk of being hit by a tsunami.
  • Tsunamis can leave a lot of salt water behind, making fresh water undrinkable and damaging crops. However, many tall thin palm trees have adapted to stand up to tsunamis and usually survive.