A tsunami is very large sea wave that is generated by a disturbance along the ocean floor. This disturbance can be an earthquake, a landslide, or a volcanic eruption. A tsunami is undetectable far out in the ocean, but once it reaches shallow water, this fast-traveling wave grows very large.

Tsunamis occur when a major fault under the ocean floor suddenly slips. The displace rock pushes water above it like a giant paddle, producing powerful water waves at the ocean surface. The ocean waves spread out from the vicinity of the earthquake source and move across the ocean until they reach the coastline, where their height increases as they reach the continental shelf, the part of the Earth’s crust that slopes, or rises, from the ocean floor up to the land.

Tsunamis wash ashore with often disastrous effects such as severe flooding, loss of live due to drowning, and damage to property.