The largest (recorded) earthquake in the history of the world tips the Richter Scale off the coast of Chile, South America, with a magnitude of 9.5. Total devastation is estimated at $550 million in property damage and the loss of over 2,000 lives. As magnificent and horrific as this sounds, what is more astonishing is that 61 of those resulting deaths (and subsequent property damage) occur in far-off Hawaii and 122 more on the even further coast of Japan. What possibly could have linked such distant coasts to this same catastrophe? The answer is the natural wonder known as a tsunami. This paper will serve as the "Who?, What?, When?, Where? and How?" of the geophysical phenomena known as tsunamis. It will explore in some detail, the origin, magnitude and risks of tsunamis and ways to detect them, and if possible, prepare our property and our selves for their impending destruction. .
Though written words cannot possibly do this marvel justice, this paper will explain just how an event as simple as an earthquake (and other geological events) could result in such death and destruction only 22 hours after time-zero, in lands half way across the planet. .
WHAT ARE TSUNAMIS?.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a tsunami as a "very large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption." Or in simpler terms, "a huge destructive wave". .
The word tsunami finds roots from its Japanese derivation combining the two words, tsu meaning, "harbor" and nami meaning, "wave". In the past, tsunamis were considered to be large "tidal waves" which is very misleading. The traditional tidal waves that we are most used to are created by the gravitational relationship between the earth and the moon (and other bodies in space) and the influences that result. The impact or size of a tsunami is also independent of whether it occurs during high tide or low.