Few events in nature display as much raw power as a Tsunami. The Tsunami that hit Japan in March of 2011 was the result of a powerful point nine earthquake. The even more destructive Indian Ocean Tsunami of December, 2004 was caused by another point nine earthquake. The amount of damage done, and intensity of the wave energy depends upon topography of both ocean floor and surrounding shorelines.
Tsunamis result from major ocean basin or near shore earthquakes. Therefore they more frequently strike within the area known as the ring of fire, which is the geologically active area of the entire Pacific Ocean, ringed by Australia, Asian, Russian and North and South American land masses. A slipping along the fault line generates the earthquake and subsequent waves that can travel across the entire ocean in less than a day. Not all Tsunami events are from earthquakes. More rarely a submarine or near shore volcano or the even less frequent meteor strike can grow the immense waves. Volcanic Tsunamis can perpetuate astonishingly big waves.
The waves from the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 were huge, but in recorded history, the waves from the Krakatau event in 1883 were documented to be up to 125 feet above sea level. Many coastal villages were wiped from the map and untold thousands died.
Hilo, Hawaii is struck by an occasional Tsunami due to its central Pacific location. Yet, only a few have been greatly destructive. An earthquake off the Aleutian Islands generated one in 1945. Another in 1960 found a landscape that was a bit more prepared. Locating less housing and business districts close to shoreline saves many lives and more property, and having a far more sophisticated prediction system helps even more.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, The West Coast and Alaska warming centers, the Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis, or DART, and even NASA with Global Differential Global Positioning Satellite, GDGPSs all work together to provide as much data and warming information as possible before a major seismic event can reach a vulnerable shore.
Despite all the technology in place to detect a Tsunami before it strikes, there is a growing threat of more destruction from Tsunamis due to climate change. Melting ice means a change in how much more Earth is exposed, leaking methane beneath the ocean and more vulnerable coastlines due to lost outlying natural barriers are all factors.
It is not unexpected that any major change that builds or releases major weight pressure or affects geologic stress and strain should have such effects.
In recent years, the devastating effects of Tsunamis do serve as reminders of just how powerful geologic creation can be. Better disaster preparedness and response help provide hope and a moving legacy to the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are killed or injured, and many thousands more who lose homes and businesses.
As with all forces of nature and seismic activity, people are reminded that all life requires death and all creative forces are forever linked to those more often thought of as destructive. For all long term beauty and serenity of the sea and shore, there are those few moments of terror that should never be forgotten in any realistic portrayal of an ever-changing Earth.