A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake. The Greek historian Thucydides suggested in 426 BC that tsunamis were related to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of a tsunami’s nature remained slim until the 20th century and much remains unknown. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations of underwater nuclear devices), landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami.

Rather than appearing as a breaking wave, a tsunami may instead initially resemble a rapidly rising tide, and for this reason they are often referred to as tidal waves. Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves with periods ranging from minutes to hours, arriving in a so-called “wave train”. Although the impact of tsunamis is limited to coastal areas, their destructive power can be enormous and they can affect entire ocean basins; the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was among the deadliest natural disasters in human history with over 230,000 people killed in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

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