Japanese term meaning wave (“nami”) in a harbour (“tsu”). A series of travelling waves of extremely long length and period, usually generated by disturbances associated with earthquakes occurring below or near the ocean floor. (Also called seismic sea wave and, incorrectly, tidal wave). Volcanic eruptions, submarine landslides, and coastal rock falls can also generate tsunamis, as can a large meteorite impacting the ocean. These waves may reach enormous dimensions and travel across entire ocean basins with little loss of energy. They proceed as ordinary gravity waves with a typical period between 10 and 60 minutes. Tsunamis steepen and increase in height on approaching shallow water, inundating low-lying areas, and where local submarine topography causes the waves to steepen, they may break and cause great damage. Tsunamis have no connection with tides; the popular name, tidal wave, is entirely misleading.

tsunami