Published on April 28th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie2
Tsunamis: Terrors Of The Oceans
They are one of the scariest sights in nature. An immense wall of water, far more powerful than concrete or any human- made structure. They can approach transonic speeds and can kill hundreds of thousands of people. Tsunamis are some of the most powerful forces found on Earth.
Earthquakes And Tsunami
A twin force, tsunamis and earthquakes are interlinked. With the exceptions of landslides and volcanoes, earthquakes are generally necessary to form tsunamis. Check out Yellow Magpie’s Earthquakes: The Deadliest Of All Shockwaves for further insight.
In 2004, the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives and Africa’s east coast, brought the power and threat of these monster waves to our attention. The Japanese tsunami that followed the massive 9.0 magnitude quake once again opened our eyes to the power of nature.
Normal Waves Versus Tsunami Waves
The difference between ordinary waves and tsunami waves is not dictated to by their size or strength. Rather it is governed by the distance between the crests of the waves. Normal waves are usually separated by roughly 100 to 200 metres. In a tsunami wave, the sea floor gets disturbed and enormous volumes of water are displaced causing the wave patterns in turn to be interfered with. This causes the distance between the waves to be increased. The largest tsunamis can have wave crests that are over 300 miles apart.
Tsunamis In Action
Tsunami waves are only one metre in height out to sea. However, the wave is travelling at tremendous speeds which sometimes exceed 600 miles per hour. The peak or the trough of the wave hits the land first. If the trough of the wave hits first it appears to be like a sudden low tide with the water sucked out to sea. If the peak appears first, it looks like an enormous sudden swell with the typical huge wave.
As the wave comes closer inland the depth of the water decreases. This also causes the wave to lose its speed but the energy must be dissipated and so the wave increases in height. Some of the largest tsunamis can have waves as high as 40 metres which travel inland for several miles.
This initial wave can be followed by a second wave which can actually be more destructive than the first.
Hawaii And Tsunami Detection
Hawaii is one of the most common regions hit by tsunamis. To try and minimise loss of life, Hawaii has one of the most sophisticated early warning systems in the world. The stations monitor seismometers which are placed all over the Earth.
Large Earthquakes are noted and the speed of a tsunami can be calculated based on the depth of water. Therefore, scientists can work out how much time citizens have before the tsunami hits.
In all probability another large Earthquake measuring a 9.0 on the Richter Scale is likely, with the Pacific region being the most prone area.
The Japanese Tsunami
With 8,000 times more energy than the earthquake that devastated Christchurch in New Zealand in 2011 , the earthquake that hit Japan was monstrously powerful. The earthquake’s epicentre was so close to land, at just 72 kilometres (45 miles), that people had very little time to evacuate the area when the tsunami hit.
The Tsunami in Japan was so big that its wave rippled right across the entire pacific hitting continents and returning back to Japan. Pretty much like a giant ripple in a pond.
The tsunamis in 2004 helped scientists to prepare and minimise the damage. Within three minutes of the earthquake occurring, scientists in Hawaii had issued a tsunami warning. Unfortunately, the tsunami struck the coast of Japan just nine minutes after the warning and people struggled to reach safety in time.
The Future And Tsunamis
It is clear that tsunamis will occur periodically. Small tsunamis occur at least twice a year. Larger tsunamis generally occur every 15 years. It has also become clear that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to prevent them.
The one thing we can do is have better detection and early warning systems. We already have made great strives in this area and there is strong evidence to back this up.
Although the Japanese Tsunami claimed the lives of over 11,000 people, without an early warning system the casualties could have reach catastrophic proportions. The 2004 tsunami that stuck the Indian Ocean killed over 230,000 people. So progress is being made. All we can do is to keep improving our detection systems and hope for the best.
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