A tsunami, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake.

Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes and the propagation of elastic waves through the Earth or through other planet-like bodies.

In physics, a wave is an oscillation accompanied by a transfer of energy that travels through a medium.

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Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami.

A meteorite is a solid piece of debris from an object, such as a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid, that originates in outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to reach the surface of a planet or moon.

A landslide, also known as a landslip, is a form of mass wasting that includes a wide range of ground movements, such as rockfalls, deep failure of slopes, and shallow debris flows.

Several types of volcanic eruptions—during which lava, tephra, and assorted gases are expelled from a volcanic vent or fissure—have been distinguished by volcanologists.

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Unlike normal ocean waves which are generated by wind or tides which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth.


Tsunami waves do not resemble normal undersea currents or sea waves, because their wavelength is far longer.

In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.


Rather than appearing as a breaking wave, a tsunami may instead initially resemble a rapidly rising tide, and for this reason they are often referred to as tidal waves, although this usage is not favoured by the scientific community because tsunamis are not tidal in nature.


Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves with periods ranging from minutes to hours, arriving in a so-called "internal wave train".


Wave heights of tens of metres can be generated by large events.


Although the impact of tsunamis is limited to coastal areas, their destructive power can be enormous and they can affect entire ocean basins; the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was among the deadliest natural disasters in human history with at least 230,000 people killed or missing in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering 70,560,000 km2.


Greek historian Thucydides suggested in his late-5th century BC History of the Peloponnesian War, that tsunamis were related to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of a tsunami's nature remained slim until the 20th century and much remains unknown.

The History of the Peloponnesian War is a historical account of the Peloponnesian War, which was fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League.

A submarine, undersea, or underwater earthquake is an earthquake that occurs underwater at the bottom of a body of water, especially an ocean.


Major areas of current research include trying to determine why some large earthquakes do not generate tsunamis while other smaller ones do; trying to accurately forecast the passage of tsunamis across the oceans; and also to forecast how tsunami waves interact with specific shorelines.

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