Q&A: General Tsunami Information

Is there a scale associated with the severity of a tsunami?

Yes, there is a tsunami magnitude scale. The scale has many factors. For a Richter magnitude it is the acceleration of the ground motion; for a tsunami scale there are many more factors than the Richter scale.  - Elena Suleimani, Tsunami Modeler/Research Analyst 

Do tsunamis have names like hurricanes have names?

No. Hurricanes are events that happen every year and we know for sure they will happen during the hurricane season. Forecasters can watch how they form and travel, and during that process they give them names. Unfortunately, tsunamis are not predictable; they don’t happen regularly. That’s why they don’t have names. After they happen, they give them names, which usually tell the general location they happened at, such as the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004 or the Alaskan Tsunami of 1964. - Elena Suleimani, Tsunami Modeler/Research Analyst 

How far does a tsunami wave travel?

A tsunami wave can travel around the globe and maybe more than once. In the case of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami it traveled around the globe and was recorded in Kodiak and everywhere along the Pacific Ocean. It's a pretty powerful wave. - Elena Suleimani, Tsunami Modeler/Research Analyst

Which are bigger, in terms of wave height, tidal waves or tsunamis?

Tsunami waves could be much higher than tidal waves. It depends on the size of the tsunami waves. Some tsunami waves are as high as tides, and some are much higher than tides.  - Elena Suleimani, Tsunami Modeler/Research Analyst 


Does the viscosity of the water affect the tsunami?

No. The viscosity of water is a very small factor. In some problems you need to take viscosity of account, but tsunamis have such a large scale that viscosity plays a minor role. If we are talking about very small waves on the surface of the water, like capillary waves, or waves caused by wind on the water; those waves you need to take viscosity into account, but not with tsunami waves. It's a good question.- Elena Suleimani, Tsunami Modeler/Research Analyst

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