How are tsunamis different from normal ocean waves?

  • Ocean waves are related to changes in the atmosphere while tsunamis are related to changes within the Earth.
  • Tsunami waves are distinguished from ordinary ocean waves by their long wavelengths (distance between two crests or highest point of the wave), often exceeding 100 kilometers in the deep ocean and by the long amount of time between the arrivals of these crests, ranging from five minutes to an hour.
  • Most tsunami waves do not break like normal surf waves at the beach that curl over as they approach shore rather they come in much like a very strong and very fast wall of water. Those that do break often form vertical walls of turbulent water called bores.

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