Tsunamis are generated after an earthquake breaks along a fault line underneath the ocean floor. The fractured surface around that fault is lifted up and pulled back down thereby creating a movement in the water, according to Live Science.
"This is the most common way to generate a tsunami," according to the University of Southern California's Tsunami Research Center Aggeliki Barberopoulou as he monitors the events in the northeastern part of Japan's colossal 8.9 magnitude quake on 11 March 05:46 GMT (14:46 local time).
From the ruptured Earth's surface, the energy is transferred vertically towards the surface that spreads horizontally toward Japan down south to Taiwan and the Philippines and across the Pacific Ocean traveling all the way to Hawaii and the west coast of North and South America.
The waves hit Japan's eastern shorelines 90 minutes after the temblor struck creating a 7-meter (23-feet)-high tsunami that swept away anything in its path like cars, debris, homes, sea vessels, and people.
"I was actually shocked to see all the damage the waves had caused because the damage didn't match up with initial estimates of the earthquake's magnitude, which were a magnitude lower than current estimates," Barberopoulou toldOurAmazingPlanet.
When you are at sea, tsunami waves are at most a few meters high and not the gigantic waves we thought it would be, because the waves are scattered to hundreds of kilometer distance.
A seafarer once told me that tsunamis are not really a problem in the middle of the ocean because a ship will follow the movement of the body of water.
It is when the waves approach the land that they cause troubles. The water becomes shallow, which result in the wave becoming shallower and higher.
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Details of this report here.