DAVID A. HARDY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID A. HARDY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Tsunami. Artwork of a tsunami about to swamp some buildings and telephone wires. Often wrongly termed "tidal waves", tsunamis are generated by an abrupt physical displacement of the seabed. This is typically caused by undersea earthquakes, large volcanic eruptions or subsidence of the ocean floor. 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 wave ever recorded was 85 metres tall, and hit Japan in 1771.
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