What is a Tsunami?
The phenomenon we call "tsunami" is a series of travelling ocean waves of extremely long length generated primarily by earthquakes occurring below or near the ocean floor. Underwater volcanic eruptions and landslides can also generate tsunamis. In the deep ocean, the tsunami waves propagate across the deep ocean with a speed exceeding 800 kilometres per hour, and a wave height of only a few tens of centimetres or less. Tsunami waves are distinguished from ordinary ocean waves by their great length between wave crests, often exceeding a 100 km or more in the deep ocean, and by the time between these crests, ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. As they reach the shallow waters of the coast, the waves slow down and the water can pile up into a wall of destruction tens of meters or more in height. The effect can be amplified where a bay, harbour or lagoon funnels the wave as it moves inland. Large tsunamis have been known to rise over 30 meters. Even a tsunami 3–6 meters high can be very destructive and cause many deaths and injuries. Tsunamis are a threat to life and property for all coastal residents living near the ocean. During the 1990s, over 4,000 people were killed by 10 tsunamis, including more than 1000 lives lost in the 1992 Flores region, Indonesia, and 2200 lives in the 1998 Aitape, Papua New Guinea tsunamis. Property damage was nearly one billion United States dollars. Although 80% of the tsunamis occur in the Pacific, they can also threaten coastlines of countries in other regions, including the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean region, and even the Atlantic Ocean. The most devastating tsunami occurred in December 2004, when a M9.0 earthquake off of north-western Sumatra, Indonesia produced a destructive tsunami that attacked coasts throughout the Indian Ocean, killing 300,000 people, displacing more than one million people, and causing billions of dollars of property damage.