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Author: Jennifer Quinonez-De La Paz

MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales  [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how processes change Earth’s surface at time and spatial scales that can be large (such as slow plate motions or the uplift of large mountain ranges) or small (such as rapid landslides or microscopic geochemical reactions), and how many geoscience processes (such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteor impacts) usually behave gradually but are punctuated by catastrophic events. Examples of geoscience processes include surface weathering and deposition by the movements of water, ice, and wind. Emphasis is on geoscience processes that shape local geographic features, where appropriate.]

Photo: Thyssen, Malene. “Boelge Stor.” Wikimedia Commons, 29 May 2004,

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What is a Tsunami?

What is a tsunami? 

A tsunami is a series of waves caused by earthquakes or undersea volcanic eruptions 

Newfoundland tsunami
On Nov. 18, 1929, a magnitude 7.4 Mw earthquake occurred 155 miles south of Newfoundland along the southern edge of the Grand Banks, Canada. This illustration, called a Tsunami Time Travel Map, shows the arrival times of tsunami waves. Red: 1-4 hour arrival times; Yellow: 5-6 hour arrival times; Green: 7-14 hour arrival times. The map was produced by NOAA and the International Tsunami Information Center. View more Tsunami Time Travel Maps.

Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea. Out in the depths of the ocean, tsunami waves do not dramatically increase in height. But as the waves travel inland, they build up to higher and higher heights as the depth of the ocean decreases. The speed of tsunami waves depends on ocean depth rather than the distance from the source of the wave. Tsunami waves may travel as fast as jet planes over deep waters, only slowing down when reaching shallow waters. While tsunamis are often referred to as tidal waves, this name is discouraged by oceanographers because tides have little to do with these giant waves.

Source: US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Is a Tsunami?” NOAA's National Ocean Service, 1 Feb. 2014,

Where have some of the worst Tsunamis occurred?

Read the following article to find out more about the different tsunamis events that occurred in our history. 

The 10 most destructive tsunamis in history

Source: Phillips, Campbell. “The 10 Most Destructive Tsunamis in History.” Australian Geographic, 11 Mar. 2011,

Tsunamis 101

Watch the video and write down facts that you observe. This will help you to answer the quiz questions.

Source: NationalGeographic. “Tsunamis 101 | National Geographic.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Dec. 2015,

Tsunami Animation

The following video will give you a better idea on how a tsunami can occur and look like.

Source: noaaBroll. “NOAA Tsunami Animation.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Oct. 2016,

Big Question

Go to the link below and answer the question.

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