Shop Windows to the Universe

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
When movement along a fault moves the seafloor upward, water is also pushed upward and becomes tsunami waves. As the waves approach shallower water, they become higher.
Click on image for full size
NOAA

How Tsunamis Form

A tsunami is a series of waves generated in an ocean or other body of water by a disturbance such as an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, or meteorite impact. The picture at the left shows how an earthquake can generate a tsunami in the overlying water.

Undersea earthquakes, which typically occur at boundaries between Earth’s tectonic plates, cause the water above to be moved up or down. Tsunami waves are formed as the displaced water, which acts under the influence of gravity, attempts to find a stable position again.

Undersea landslides, which can be caused by large earthquakes, can also cause tsunami waves to form as water attempts to find a stable position.

Undersea volcano eruptions can create enough force to uplift the water column and generate a tsunami.

Asteroid impacts disturb the water from above, as momentum from falling debris is transferred to the water into which the debris falls.

Last modified May 21, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What Is an Earthquake?

The expression “on solid ground” is often used to describe something as stable. Usually the solid ground underfoot seems very stable. But sometimes it is not. "The ground seemed to twist under us like...more

Plate Tectonics

The main force that shapes our planet’s surface over long amounts of time is the movement of Earth's outer layer by the process of plate tectonics. This picture shows how the rigid outer layer of the...more

Ten Tsunami Safety Facts

1. Tsunamis that strike coastal locations in the Pacific Ocean Basin are almost always caused by earthquakes. These earthquakes might occur far away or near where you live. 2. Some tsunamis can be very...more

Albedo

This picture of the Earth surface was taken from high above the planet in the International Space Station. In this view from above, we can see that there are lots of different things that cover the Earth....more

Desert Birds

Like the other creatures of the desert, birds come up with interesting ways to survive in the harsh climate. The sandgrouse has special feathers that soak up water. It can then carry the water to its...more

The Desert Biome

Deserts are full of interesting questions. How can anything survive in a place with hardly any water? Why is it so dry to begin with? You can find at least one desert on every continent except Europe....more

Desert Insects and Arachnids

You can find insects almost anywhere in the world. So it should be of no surprise that there are plenty of insects in the desert. One of the most common and destructive pests is the locust. A locust is...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA