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25 Interesting Facts about Tsunamis

25 Interesting Facts about Tsunamis

Want to know more about Tsunamis? Here are 25 Interesting Facts about Tsunamis that you probably didn’t know before reading this!

Tsunamis are one of the biggest threats to humanity when it comes to natural disasters around the world, so it’s important to take some time and learn some facts about tsunamis in order to survive. 

What is a tsunami?

A tsunami is a series of waves, which are formed in the ocean after an earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption. The tsunami waves will increase in height as the water gets more shallow, and they can reach the same speed as jet planes of up to 900 kilometers per hour.

The tsunami waves won’t slow down until they reach more shallow water or hitting landmass. They can travel for thousands of miles across the ocean, which means that the earthquake or landslide don’t have to happen in the near proximity in order to be struck by a tsunami.

Tsunamis are mostly caused by earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions

Whenever an earthquake, big landslide or volcanic eruption occur, a tsunami can be expected. The amount of energy released will also determine how large the tsunami will get. 

In addition to earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, scientists also believe that meteorites can cause tsunamis when they hit the ground.

They believe that some meteorites have caused massive tsunamis in the past, but no one has been able to witness it in modern times. 

How tsunamis are created

Photo: Doroniuk Anastasiia/Shutterstock

They can poison freshwater sources and soil

Due to the massive amounts of saltwater that are brought inland by the tsunami waves, the salt left behind can potentially poison the soil and freshwater sources. This can leave the local population vulnerable for some time afterward as well, and even spread disease. 

The ocean is usually drawn back before it hits the coast

Shortly before the tsunami strikes land, the ocean will recede several hundreds of meters. This is a dangerous warning sign, and if this happens it’s important to take measures as quickly as possible and evacuate. 

When the ocean is drawn back, experts say that a tsunami could hit as soon as 5 minutes after the ocean recedes. However, it’s also important to not confuse tsunamis with tidal waves, which are naturally happening every day. 

Tsunami warning sign

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Tsunami waves can be as huge as 100 feet (30 meters)

Out in the ocean, the waves are quite small on the surface, but as soon as they reach land or shallow water the tsunami waves will increase in height rapidly.

The biggest waves can reach a height of up to 100 feet (30 meters) which will put most human objects and buildings below the surface.

The reason for this is because the tsunami waves aren’t really regular waves, but more so the energy that travels through the water. That energy has to go somewhere and it won’t slow down until it gets into more shallow water or hit land. 

Grab a floating object if you’re caught by a tsunami

If you’re caught by a tsunami, you should never try to swim to safety because the massive waves will pull you in the opposite direction. Grabbing an object that floats is the safest way of surviving the waves if you don’t have time to reach higher grounds. 

The most powerful tsunami in modern times happened in 2004

The most powerful tsunami took place on December 2004 and killed 230,000 to 280,000 people in a total of 14 countries in the Indian Ocean.

It’s the most destructive tsunami in modern times, and the reason why so many people died was because of lack of preparation and warning systems. Many who died also curiously went down to the beaches to see why the ocean had receded so far back. 

Tsunami information

Photo: Stefano Ember /

The Ring of Fire sees 80% of the world’s tsunamis

The Ring of Fire is the most earthquake-prone area in the world, and one of the most volcanic active regions. It’s located in the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 40,000 kilometers.

Since tsunamis are a result of the energy created from earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions, this might not be one of the most surprising facts about tsunamis, but still interesting to know. 

Tsunami hazard zones usually have escape routes

After the devastating tsunami in 2004, all of the countries hit took measures to implement proper warning systems and mark hazard zones which aren’t considered safe if a tsunami will strike again in the future. 

In addition to the marked signs of hazard zones, the governments also created escape routes and evacuation plans. 

Facts about Tsunamis

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A Megatsunami could hit the world in the near future

Megatsunamis occurs when a very large amount of material suddenly falls into the water. This happens mostly due to meteor impact or volcanic activity.

What differs a megatsunami from an ordinary tsunami is the fact that the initial waves can be hundreds or even thousands of feet high. Ordinary tsunamis typically have a low initial wave height and increases when entering the shallow water. 

Animals usually seek shelter before the tsunami strikes

Some animals are known for predicting natural disasters and they will start evacuating days or hours before impact. This is true for earthquakes, eruptions, storms, and even tsunamis.

Scientists are still not sure how the animals can sense the natural disasters beforehand, but when animals are fleeing for their life or express anxiety, it’s generally a good idea to follow. 

There is an average of 1-2 tsunami per year

Although there are about 500,000 earthquakes per year around the world, only 100,000 of them are felt, and only 1 of them are usually as powerful so that a tsunami is formed. In some years, there will be 1-3 tsunamis per year, and in some years, there will be none. 

How many tsunamis happen a year? There is an average of 1-2 tsunamis per year. 

5 x Mindblowing facts about tsunamis

  • Tsunamis can travel up to the speed of 500-900 kilometers per hour
  • Palm trees are known to withstand the power of tsunamis
  • In the deepest part of the ocean, tsunami waves are often only 1 to 3 feet tall (30-90 cm)
  • They can travel thousands of miles unnoticed in the open ocean
  • The Indian Ocean tsunami is estimated to have had the same energy and power as 23,000 atom bombs
mindblowing facts about tsunamis

Photo: Frans Delian /

5 x Tsunami facts for kids

  • Tsunami means “harbor wave” in Japanese
  • Japan is building concrete walls in the ocean to protect against future tsunamis
  • A tsunami consists of a series of waves, also known as the wave train
  • When tsunamis hit shallow water (often near the coast) they slow down but increase in height.
  • Countries within the danger zones often have warning systems in place to warn against tsunami-threats

Facts about tsunamis in japan

  • Japan is one of the most tsunami-prone countries
  • The Japanese have built a wall to protect from future impacts
  • The 2011 tsunami in was caused by a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake in Tohoku
  • The highest tsunami waves in Japan reached a height of 90 meters
  • There have been a total of 140 tsunamis in Japan since the year 684
  • Students are taught in schools how to safely evacuate
Facts about tsunamis in japan

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More information about tsunamis

As you have learned from these tsunami facts, these terrifying waves are caused by earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or even meteor impact.

They are causing mass destruction and can potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people if warnings and evacuation plans aren’t in place and executed in time. 

There are many interesting facts about tsunamis, and while some of them are scary, it’s important to learn more about this phenomenon in order to protect yourself and others if a tsunami hits your area in the future.

Last but not least, below are some of the most frequently asked questions about tsunami and answers. 

How long do a tsunami last?

Large tsunamis can continue for days but the peak is often reached after a few hours.

Where do tsunamis happen?

80% of the tsunamis occur in the so-called Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean. However, there are records of tsunamis happening in other regions as well, such as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean sea.  

Can you outrun a tsunami?

No, it’s not possible to outrun a tsunami since they can travel up to 900 kilometers an hour. The fastest human in the world has reached a maximum speed of 44.7 km/h (27.8mph).

As soon as there is a warning sign or evacuation alert for a potential tsunami, you should run for your life and find higher grounds.

How many of these facts about Tsunamis did you already know? Leave a comment below!