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Six Facts About Tsunamis: Unleashing the Secrets of Nature's Powerhouse

These colossal waves have the power to reshape coastlines and leave devastation in their wake, but they also hold some mind-boggling surprises. Dive into our collection of intriguing facts about tsunamis – they’re truly natural wonders… 

Photo Credit: Philip Thurston / Getty Images

1. Tsunamis aren't tidal waves

Contrary to popular belief, tsunamis have nothing to do with tides. They’re often called “tidal waves,” but tsunamis are actually caused by underwater earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic eruptions, primarily within the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire.

2. Tsunami range from tiny to Titanic

In the open ocean, tsunami waves are only about a meter high, but when they hit the shore, they can grow up to a staggering 35 meters tall—that’s as high as a 10-story building! The transformation occurs as the waves slow down in shallower water, making them one of nature’s most impressive shape-shifters.

3. Tsunamis reach far inland

The real terror of tsunamis lies in their wavelength, which determines how far inland they can reach. Compared to a large storm wave with a 150-meter wavelength, a tsunami can extend 1,000 kilometers! 

4. Tsunamis can travel faster than a car - and many planes

Tsunamis are not just big, they’re fast! While typical wind waves travel at about 90 km/h, tsunamis can rip across the ocean at an astonishing 970 km/h. That’s faster than most cars on the highway.

5. Tsunamis create a vacuum

Before they strike, tsunamis may create a vacuum effect, temporarily draining harbors and beaches, leaving fish and other sea creatures stranded. Minutes later, the wave crashes ashore, followed by several more waves for two hours or more, with up to an hour between each one.

6. Tsunamis can now be predicted

Scientists have established the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, headquartered in Hawaii, to help save lives from these powerful waves. This network of detectors tracks earthquakes that may trigger tsunamis, providing people with enough time to evacuate to higher ground before the waves strike.

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