How does an underwater earthquake cause a tsunami?

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Feb 10, 2018

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creation of waves

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When a earthquake happens underwater the released mechanical energy is transmitted to the water above the epicenter.

As result large waves start travelling. These waves have very long wavelength and period and until in deep water they may be barely noticeable. Once shallow water is reached the waves will become steep and high.

Before such kind of waves hit a shoreline the sea may retreat for several meters leaving a large part of the seafloor dry. This is a telltale sign of the approaching of a tsunami.

The energy of a tsunami (from a Japanese word meaning harbor wave) is astonishing being able to push inland for hundreds of meters, tearing apart concrete structures and breaking moorings.

The waves can travel for hundreds or thousands of kilometers through the ocean before hitting areas very far from from their origin.

Beside earthquakes also underwater eruptions and landslides can trigger a tsunami.

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