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Connection between Earthquakes and Tsunamis

October 11, 2022    7 min read

We have either heard about, witnessed, or have been affected by natural disasters - especially the popular ones like Earthquakes and Tsunamis. Sometimes, we hear about them on the news. Sometimes, we have our loved ones affected by them. And sometimes, we are the ones who have experienced natural disasters firsthand. While we have heard about or experienced earthquakes and tsunamis at different times, did you know that both are related?

What Causes an Earthquake?
When there are shifts and collisions of tectonic plates, the big pieces of Earth’s outer shell result in disturbances at the ground level and lead to an earthquake. The friction between plates results in the edges sticking and building up energy. This energy eventually gets released from the natural disaster we all know - an earthquake!

What is a Tsunami & What Causes it?
A tsunami is a series of enormous waves of extremely long wavelengths. 'Tsunami' is a Japanese word that means harbor wave. Interestingly, it is also called a 'killer sea wave.'

The four main reasons that cause tsunamis are:

1. Waves resulting from a sudden movement of the ocean surface caused by earthquakes
2. Landslides on the sea floor
3. Slumping of land into the ocean
4. The strong impact of a comet or meteor on the ocean

How Are Tsunamis Formed?
A large number of tsunamis are a result of earthquakes. When an earthquake occurs, the ground shakes, and the movement moves up or down. As a result, the water gets displaced, and it starts moving randomly in all directions and ends up disturbing the ocean's surface.

The displaced water tries to recover equilibrium, but it creates waves because of the gravitational pull. These waves can eventually become destructive and result in a natural disaster.

When Does Earthquake Become a Tsunami?

Four conditions are necessary for an earthquake to cause a tsunami:

1. The earthquake must affect the ground beneath the ocean water or result in material sliding into the ocean.
2. The earthquake should be greater than 6.5 on the Richter scale.
3. The earthquake must burst the Earth’s surface, and the depth must be shallow- less than 70km (43.496 miles) below the surface of the Earth.
4. The earthquake must cause the sea floor to move vertically.

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