Tsunamis: Giant Waves from the Sea

Through its argumentative flow, the paper will argue the fact that tsunamis are caused by forces outside of human power and only nature is responsible for their occurrence and causes. Human beings have minimal power to prevent and control tsunamis, but they can still apply knowledge and efforts to lessen effects of tsunamis on local, national, and global scales. A tsunami is a succession of fast-moving waves inside the ocean caused by strong volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. It normally has a long wavelength that could travel as long as hundreds of kilometers. Upon being triggered, such waves travel at a terrific speed across an ocean with some loss of energy. In the course of their movement, they can destroy and damage entire houses and towns, toss and drag vehicles, destroy trees, and remove sand from beaches. Meteorite impacts have also the potential to contribute to the occurrence of tsunamis in some instances.

Causes of Tsunami

During tsunami occurrence, water can recede from the seacoast half of the wave period before waves get to the coast. In situations when the slope of the coast is not deep, the ocean water may pull back for hundreds of miles. The majority of people who may not be aware of danger have a tendency to remain at the shore during this occurrence and may expose themselves to deadly risks.

A tsunami is feared by a countless population of people and has been all along christened as ‘monster’. It has the characteristic of cutting across the sea with an enormous speed, whereupon reaching the land, it removes the majority of water from the harbor. Thereafter, it may rise over 100 feet tall and cover the surrounding habitats (Yan Fang and Yusof 21). Before hitting, a tsunami can leave behind a massive vacuum effect. People around can horribly witness the sea bottom being littered with flopping fish. This is because waves are made up of crests (high points) and dips (alternating points between crests), making the water level drop drastically whenever the trough hits the land. What follows is the blasting of another wave that takes place after 15-20 minutes and, then, a series of waves can later follow in two-three hours after the second one (Yan Fang and Yusof 21). These awe-inspiring waves are naturally caused by huge, undersea earthquakes as well as tectonic plate boundaries. When the ocean floor is cut, the plate boundary rises and falls swiftly and will definitely displace the water above it, thus instigating rolling waves that become a tsunami.

Close to 80% of tsunamis occur within the Pacific Ocean (Yan Fang and Yusof 23). Under this geologically active area, tectonic shits are seen making earthquakes and volcanic processes. Another origin of tsunami could be a volcano eruption or an underwater landslide. According to Bryant (96), tsunamis travel at a lightning speed of 50 miles (approximately 805 km/hour). At this pace, Bryant notes that they have the potential to cross the entire stretch of the Pacific Ocean within 24 hours or less (Bryant 97-98). Presence of these line wavelengths suggests that they have the feature of losing minute energy along the traveling path. Surprising enough, a tsunami wave is just a foot in height. Nevertheless, in the course of advancing into shoreline and entering shallower waters, waves trend to slow down and start gaining in momentum in height and energy. A precipitous rise can be observed due to the fast movement of the tops of waves in contrast to their bottoms.

What reaches the shore first is the tsunami’s trough, which is the low point beneath the wave’s crest. The consequent effect is production of a vacuum effect that extracts the coastal water seaward and then exposes both the harbor and sea floors. This recoiling of seawater is a significant warning sign of a tsunami since the crest of the wave and its massive capacity of water normally hit the shore in 7 minutes or so. Kusky (34) advises that by just recognizing this phenomenon human lives can be saved in the process. The fact that a tsunami is composed of a series of waves known as wave train implies that its destructive force can be compounded while successive waves reach the shore. It has always been a call for people who experience tsunami to remember that the real danger may not have gone with the first wave and it is recommended that that they await an official word that it is safe to return to their susceptible locations. Kusky (32) notes that some notorious tsunamis do not necessarily appear on the shore as breaking waves, but rather resemble a quickly rolling tide that has the capacity to inundate coastal areas. Contrary to surface waves that affect only a small amount of water, a tsunami can stretch by extending to the sea surface. Upon reaching the shore, there is a sudden growth of these waves to greater heights.

Defense against Tsunami

According to Baltzer (91), the recommended defense against tsunami is issuance of early warning that is meant to allow people to seek higher ground. Creation of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, an alliance of 20 countries headquartered in Hawaii, the USA, holds a web of water level gauges and seismic equipment for purposes of identifying tsunamis at sea. Other similar systems have been put in place to protect most suspected coastal areas globally.

Anytime the tsunami disaster happens, the entire world normally feels the heat of the devastation. Due to the innate care for the humanity, the majority of people and humanitarian organizations offer support by donating and sending money to assist tsunami victims. Rather than stating that different parts of the world should engage in dealing with their own problems, everyone blames other nations for failing to combat the tsunami crisis. Records prove that the United States alone has suffered from astronomical impacts of tsunamis. This gigantic effect brought by a tsunami is majorly attributed to lava erupting volcanoes, debris flowing through landslides, and destructive earthquakes.

It is essential to note that earthquakes are the number one generator of the majority of occurring tsunamis. For instance, during the past decade, the world has witnessed an escalating substantiation of tsunamis parented by submarine landslides. Truth be told, submarine landsides have emerged to become chief suspects in the creation of “surprise tsunami” from small to distant earthquakes. In one way or another, the geography of earthquakes resembles that of submarine landslides. Landslides have no provision for statistical or physical warning when it comes to safety procedures. Top-notch experts in the field of geology and earthquakes have shown that earthquake monitoring systems would not pick it up. This implies that the first time the public learns about a tsunami is when it hits the shore. The major cause of future landslide is an unusually heavy rainfall, which should be curbed by extra tree planting especially around new quarry sites (Folger 309). Volcano eruptions normally occur in a wide variety of sizes and shapes with cataclysmic explosions that have the potential of destroying a city, a town, or a small country (Folger 310). Some super eruptions have been distanced from eruptions by the capacity of debris and ash.

Effects of Tsunami

Tsunamis can be caused by landslides or volcanic eruptions occurring on the surface of the ocean. They are infrequently triggered by large meteorite impacts. According to one classification, the majority of tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. Such earthquakes must be large enough to occur near or under the ocean where they create unnecessary movements under the sea floor. Earthquake levels are instigated by meeting the earth’s tectonic plates along ‘fault lines’ of ‘faults’. Whenever these earthquakes occur at a submarine level, created vibrations are responsible for causing the ocean water to ripple and then move. In most cases, the bigger the earthquakes, the larger the results produced. A tsunami is characteristically a massive wave or, to say it precisely, a succession of giant waves. The major problem with tsunamis is that their effects are usually unpredictable. This means that they can strike a thousand miles away from where the initial earthquake occurred. According to Capaccio (102), regions that stand the greatest risk of being hit by tsunamis include west coast of the United States, the Philippines, Japan, and Alaska.

In coastal areas, a tsunami can advance within the shortest time possible by landing very massive waves on the shore in a way that could sweep vehicles and people away and further tear buildings apart. They tend to reach flood areas swiftly and contain energy that is equivalent to the energy drawn from multiple blasts of the TNT (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Considering common effects felt by people, many have lost their homes and businesses, leaving them in the state of hopelessness. Governments are supposed to incur millions of dollars for repairs and offering of assistance to victims. Contaminated water has to be adjusted, apart from sorting needs of people in terms of medical care and food.

It is arguably true that people now appreciate devastating nature of earthquakes. Nevertheless, for coastal regions, a far greater danger that could strike later is a dreaded tsunami. With the blast of a volcano eruption and speed of a tornado, a tsunami extensively displaces monuments of human construction, people, and elements of nature. With regard to these effects, it is imperative to put in more efforts into detecting systems and for dealing with impacts of tsunamis.

History of Tsunami Occurrence

On November 1, 1755, an oversize earthquake struck and destroyed Libson, Portugal, and further rocked much of Europe. What followed was a tsunami that caused over 60,000 deaths of people (Capaccio 105). On August 17, 1883, eruptions from Krakatoa volcano gave birth to a tsunami whose effect was drowning of 36,000 people in southern Sumatra and Western Java. On August 15, 1975, another South-West Philippine tsunami caused the death of 80,000. Another horrific tsunami swept the coast of Japan, killing 87,000 people in the process (Wu).

The latest Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred on December 25, 2004, was an outcome of the undersea disruption caused by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake (Wu). Sri-lanka, India, and Hong Kong are among the nations that felt the weight of the havoc. Estimates from credible sources state that over one million people lost their lives. What one can learn from the nation-wide effect is the manner in which it hit India for the first time in track record. In nations such as Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, the majority of people died whereas over 5 million people were displaced by the disastrous tsunami that struck some areas of Asia. 3 million out of the whole affected group were from Indonesia alone and another one million lived in Sri Lanka. The rest were shared between Maldives, India, and the rest of the nations pummeled by tsunami waves.

A similar circumstance happened in the past when a similar violent incident erupted in the Pacific Ocean. This bred the disaster along the coastal regions of Chile in 1960, killing the majority of civilians, though this cause could not be compared to the death toll originated from the vigorous Asian tsunami. From a macro-level sociological perspective, the entire humanity has determined the Asian tsunami to be the most devastating crisis that has so far stricken the world physically and emotionally. Schuh has established that Indonesia and Sri Lanka are the two nations that have suffered most from the tsunami (Schuh 119). Nearly all nations of the world have been concerned with unifying and attempting to assist in an immediate recovery for all nations that have fallen victims of the tsunami predicament. This has involved global efforts in terms of foreign aid and re-development of the shattered nations, as well as giving attention to the rest of matters relating to protection and existence of human life.

The Tsunami Threat

Submarine earthquakes and submarine slides, together with their impacts, have the biggest potential of setting large water volumes in motion, which are characterized by a very high speed of lateral displacement and very long wavelengths. The aftermath is that they are extremely violent when they reach shallower waters and the same wave breaks in over land with catastrophic effects. This is scientifically known as the tsunami event. This became known to the public on December 24, 2005, within the Indian Ocean (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

The effects were disastrous when over 227,898 people lost their lives (Capaccio 32). Tsunamis are a natural part of the earth’s geophysical system. In the past, numerous events have continued to pose threats to the humanity and even more so in the current age when the coastal zone is densely occupied with people and human activities. According to the introspective reasoning, the only major way of dealing with a tsunami threat is through increased knowledge that can enable people to meet future events with assistance of efficient aid organizations and warning systems. Wendorff theorizes that the recommendable way to approach the tsunami issue is to know origins, monitor trends, conduct tsunami assessment, and consider proposed handling with regard to precaution (Wendorff 28).

Ideal Solutions

It is recommendable that governments across the globe have to spend a part of their money and channel it towards curbing tsunamis. Though this is a worldwide phenomenon, still something can be done even on a minor level. The world is blessed with skilled and talented scientists and geologists. The concern is why these scientists and geologists cannot advance their research into studying and establishing the probable time when tsunamis can happen, as well as determining concrete signs that accompany them. According to Wendorff (37), the majority of scientists, geologists, and physicists are usually engaged into measuring effects and establishing the gravity and intensity of occurring earthquakes and tsunamis without taking initiative to at least predict occurrence and frequency of these natural events. Had this been observed by these professionals, much could have been done to measure and know potential places that are susceptible to tsunamis. Considerable actions could have then been carefully put in place to ensure something is done to minimize such an occurrence.

Once potential areas for tsunami occurrence have been identified early enough, then concerned bodies have the mandate of issuing warnings to people around the world about occurrence of tsunamis. In extreme cases, such people, together with their properties, could be moved away from vulnerable areas to avoid death. Governments, on their part, have to ensure that they assist their people in affected areas by giving them new land to settle on and compensating them for their lost valuables, if possible.

Dealing with a Tsunami on an Individual Scale

Many sensitive groups, academic councils, humanitarian organizations, and persons on an individual scale have endeared to find out the practice and ideal ways of dealing with tsunami. It is imperative to note that one proposed idea may be contrary to another idea proposed by another person. Discussed below are some of the strategies that can be adopted and implemented for better realization of dealing and protecting oneself from the snares of tsunamis.

To start with, a person should build an emergency kit and proceed to make a communications plan. It is essential to try to talk to everyone in the household about actions and steps to undertake if a tsunami happens. Then, one should create and practice a probable evacuation plan for the family. Schuh (23) advises that sometimes familiarity may be an escape route to a person. The person should be capable of reaching a safe location on foot within 10-15 minutes. By practicing one’s plan, a person is capable of making an appropriate response that resembles more a reaction, thus necessitating less thinking during an actual emergency. In case of a school evacuation plan, one needs to take children away from school or from any other location, but one should take into consideration that telephone lines during a tsunami watch/warning might be overloaded, meaning that routes to and from schools may be jammed.

It is significant for the authorities to update their community’s disaster plans and warning systems, together with evacuation routes. In addition, it is important for one to know height of their street above sea level as well as distance of their street from the coast and any other high-risk waters. Bryant recognizes that evacuation orders may be founded on these figures (Bryant 42). Being a local tourist presents one with the platform of familiarizing oneself with local tsunami evacuation protocols. If a person is found within an earthquake zone and it happens in a coastal region, they should immediately turn on their radio to listen to any possible tsunami warning.

Conclusion

The fact that tsunamis are caused primarily by earthquakes that occur on the floor of the ocean and that oceans always have human beings in close vicinity is astounding. No ocean has ever been left in isolation with the foreknowledge that an earthquake could occur in it and thus cause a tsunami. Even the deepest and expansive oceans with deadliest creatures in them are surrounded by people who have come to do one thing or another. This implies that anytime a tsunami occurs, irrespective of the time or season, it usually strikes scores of human lives and destroys property and natural environment. With all this information, the world cannot afford to sit back and watch millions of lives lost on various continents of the earth. Countless theories have been developed as to the origin of tsunamis though major causes are volcano eruptions, landslides, and earthquakes. Earthquakes are primary drivers of what gets tsunamis in motion. Tsunamis have fatal effects on the humanity. According to the Bryant’s hypothesis, much more has to be done if the world desires to combat further occurrence of tsunamis. Tsunamis are natural events with no human activity involved in them, but still more efforts can be channeled to find a workable avenue that would prove effective for all populations across the globe. Though the present paper has highlighted, among many other things, origins, causes, history, and effects of tsunamis, what is still unknown is the large-scale direction that must be taken by the whole world to protect human populations from perishing.

Works Cited

Baltzer, Rochelle. Tsunamis. Edina: ABDO Pub., 2012. Print.
Capaccio, George. Tsunamis. Pelham: Benchmark Education, 2011. Print.
Folger, Tim. “The Calm before the Wave.” National Geographic Mar. 2012: 307-313. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Tsunami Stories,” n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Schuh, Mari C. Tsunamis. Mankato: Capstone, 2010. Print.
Wendorff, Anne. Tsunamis. Minneapolis: Bellwether Media, 2009. Print.
Wu, Nadia. “Tsunamis could be a Billion-dollar Threat to Australia’s South East.” The Conservation, 28 August 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Yan Fang, Jane Teng, and Qismullah Yusof. “Surviving Women’s Learning Experiences From the Tsunami in Aceh.” Adult Learning 25.1 (2014): 20-26. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.