Tsunami Tragedy Explained At J.L. Scott - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/28/04

Tsunami Tragedy Explained At J.L. Scott

Todd Adams is an instructor at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center. He often does power point presentations about storms.

"Tsunami is a wave created by seismic forces or something falling into the water," he said.

To understand a tsunami, Adams suggests you think about a swimmer on a diving board.

"I kind of relate it to someone doing a cannonball in a pool," he said.

When a swimmer crashes into the water, his force creates waves that spread across the pool.

"It isn't a wind driven wave. It's a wave created by some sort of force," said Adams.

Waves lapping against the end of the pool were the result of the force Adams referred to.

The Scott Aquarium instructor uses a wave tank to teach students about tsunamis.

"If you have an underwater earthquake, the land is either going to move up or move down," he said, pointing to the tank.

"If it moves up, it pushes a bubble of water up and propagates the wave. If it moves down, it's going to pull water down and propagate energy and create a wave that way also."

Through Adams' research, he's learned there's usually a tsunami somewhere in the world once a year. Waves grow to 40 feet. And they rush toward land at speeds similar to jet airplanes.

The Christmas tsunami that rolled across the Indian Ocean and slammed into southeast Asia killed more than 52,000 people. And the death toll keeps rising.

So can tsunamis roar across the normally tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico? According to textbooks, the answer is yes -- but it's extremely rare.

A falling comet apparently caused the last Gulf tsunami -- 66 million years ago. That's why Adams isn't rushing out to get tsunami insurance.

"I wouldn't think we would have a great worry about them," he said. "I wouldn't rule out anything though, being in the science field, anything is possible."

Tsunamis are generated by underwater earthquakes, volcanoes or land slides. They are not tidal waves. Scientists say people incorrectly use that phrase when they talk about tsunamis.

by Brad Kessie

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