A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, usually triggered by an underwater earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide.
The word "tsunami" originates from the Japanese words "tsu" (meaning harbor) and "nami" (meaning wave).
In deep ocean waters, tsunamis may go unnoticed because they have low amplitudes (heights) and long wavelengths. However, as they approach shallow waters near coastlines, they can rapidly increase in height and cause significant damage.
Tsunamis can travel across entire ocean basins. For example, a tsunami generated in the Pacific Ocean can affect coastlines thousands of miles away, such as those in Japan, Hawaii, or even the west coast of the United States.
Tsunamis can travel across the ocean at great speeds, often reaching speeds of 500 to 600 miles per hour (800 to 970 kilometers per hour) in deep water.
The largest recorded tsunami occurred on July 9, 1958, in Lituya Bay, Alaska. It was triggered by an earthquake and generated a wave that reached a height of approximately 1,720 feet (524 meters), making it the tallest tsunami in modern history.
Tsunamis can cause devastating damage to coastal areas, including flooding, destruction of buildings and infrastructure, and loss of life. The impact can be amplified in low-lying regions and areas with a dense population.