DAVID HARDY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID HARDY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Tsunami or 'tidal wave'. Illustration depicting a tsunami engulfing oriental buildings, with an erupting volcano in the background. Often wrongly termed 'tidal waves', tsunamis are generated by abrupt physical displacement of the seabed - by an earthquake, by subsidence or by the collapse of a marine volcanic caldera. Over deep ocean, the mass of uplifted water appears as a broad and low but fast-moving disturbance. Over shallow coastal seas, however, the velocity of the wave drops and the amplitude increases, producing an enormous wave capable of immense destruction. The largest recorded tsunami was 85 metres high, and impacted on the Japanese Ryukyu Islands on 24 April 1771.
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