Tsunami

Definition

A tsunami is a series of travelling waves of extremely long length and period, generated when a large volume of ocean water is rapidly displaced by a sudden displacement of the seabed. These series of waves are generated by a displacement of massive amounts of water through underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or landslides. Tsunami waves travel at very high speed across the ocean but as they begin to reach shallow water they slow down and the wave grows steeper (IRDR Glossary).

The majority of tsunami are generated by shallow large earthquakes in subduction zones. Tsunami is also known as seismic sea waves because it is most often generated by earthquakes (UNESCO).

Facts and figures

The word tsunami is derived from the Japanese word “tsu” and “nami”, meaning “Harbor” and “Wave” respectively.

The speed of tsunami waves depends on ocean depth rather than the distance from the source of the wave. Scientists can predict when a tsunami will arrive at various places by knowing the source characteristics of the earthquake that generated the tsunami and the characteristics of the seafloor along the paths to those places. When the ocean is over 19,685 feet (6,000 m) deep, unnoticed tsunami waves can travel over 500 mph (804.67 kmh). One coastal community may see no damaging tsunami wave activity while in another nearby community destructive waves can be large and violent. Reefs, bays, entrances to rivers, undersea features and the slope of the beach help to modify the tsunami as it approaches the coastline (NOAA).

Dependent on the distance of the tsunami from its source, it may be classified as a:

  • Local/near field tsunami A tsunami from a nearby source for which its destructive effects are confined to coasts less than 1 hour tsunami travel time or typically within about 100 km from its source.
  • Regional tsunami A tsunami that is capable of destruction in a particular geographic region.
  • Destructive tsunami Happens when tsunami waves become extremely large in height, they savagely attack coastlines, causing devastating property damage and loss of life. A small wave only 30 cm high in the deep ocean may grow into a much larger wave 30 m high as it sweeps over the shore.
  • Non-Destructive Tsunami Mostly happens as a result of minor earthquakes and/or other events. It can be due to the source being far away from land or the earthquake being too small to have any effect when approaching the shore. When a small tsunami comes to the shoreline it is often seen as a strong and fast-moving tide (Caribbean Tsunami Information Center).

UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices with hazard-specific expertise

Related content on the Knowledge Portal

  • CBERS is a cooperative program between CAST (Chinese Academy of Space Technology) of the People's Republic of China, and INPE (Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais) of Brazil (government agreement of both countries for the development and operation of two satellites). The program was signed in July 1988 to establish a complete remote sensing system (space and ground segment) to supply both countries with multispectral remotely sensed imagery.
    In Nov. 2002, the governments of China and Brazil decided to expand the initial agreement by including another two satellites of the same kind, CBERS-3 and 4, as the second generation of the Sino-Brazilian cooperation effort. The planned cooperative CBERS-3&4 program of CAST and INPE employs enhanced versions of spacecraft and instruments. The specification of the project was agreed upon and closed in July 2004.

    Instruments:
    DCS (Data Collection System)
    MUXCAM (Multispectral Camera)
    PANMUX (...

    read more
    06/12/2014
  • Gaofen-2 is a follow-on mission of the Gaofen-1technology demonstration mission, a series of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites of CNSA (China National Space Administration), Beijing, China. GF-2 is part of the CHEOS (China High Resolution Earth Observation System) family.
    The mission goal of GF-2 to implement sub-meter level, high geographical accuracy Earth surface imaging, promoting application of CHEOS satellites and its social and economic benefits, meanwhile to make breakthrough in key technologies like fast roll and high stable attitude control, long focal length large f-number, lightweight camera design and long life bus design, enhancing China's civilian imaging satellite abilities and reliability.

    Instrument: PMC-2 (PAN and Multispectral Camera Suite-2)
    - 2 barrel-mounted panchromatic cameras
    - 2 MS (Multispectral) cameras
    - swath width: 23km for each camera / combined swath width: 45.3km

    19/08/2014
  • SPOT-7 is a high-resolution wide-swath imaging spacecraft built and operated by Airbus Defence and Space taking over the majority of Spot Image after the government support of the SPOT program was terminated. SPOT-6 – launched in 2012 – and SPOT-7 are identical spacecraft, based on the AstroSat-250 satellite bus and use the NAOMI (New AstroSat Optical Modular Instrument) payload to acquire optical imagery to ensure the continuity of SPOT data, building on experience gained through previous missions, particularly SPOT-5 that launched in 2002.
    The SPOT-7 spacecraft is built for a ten-year mission featuring two NAOMI cameras to cover a 60-Kilometer ground swath, 120km using single-pass mosaic imaging. Overall, the satellite can achieve a resolution of two meters in panchromatic and eight meters in multispectral mode covering the visible and near-infrared spectral bands.

    Instrument: 2x NAOMI (New...

    read more
    30/06/2014
  • Launched in June 2014 with an expected life-time of more than 7 years, Deimos-2 is an agile, high resolution satellite that became the only European fully-private satellite capable of providing sub-metric multispectral imagery. From a 620-km ascending sun-sync orbit, it has a 12/24-km swath (depending on the imaging mode), stereo-par capability and ±45º off-nadir tilting capacity. Its multispectral camera has a panchromatic and 4 spectral bands (R,G,B,NIR), at 10 bits. This allows Deimos-2 to provide 75-cm pan-sharpened imagery.

    Deimos-2 was designed to provide a cost-effective and highly responsive service to cope with the increasing need of fast access to sub-metric imagery. As evidence of this, it provides near-real time image tasking, downloading, processing and delivery to the end user. It has a collection capacity of more than 150,000 km2/day with a two-day average revisit time worldwide. The whole Deimos-2...

    read more
    19/06/2014
  • ALOS-2 (Advanced Land Observation Satellite 2) is the follow-on JAXA L-SAR satellite mission of ALOS (Daichi) approved by the Japanese government in late 2008. The overall objective is to provide data continuity to be used for cartography, regional observation, disaster monitoring, and environmental monitoring.
    The post-ALOS program of JAXA has the goal to continue the ALOS (nicknamed Daichi) data utilization - consisting of ALOS-2 (SAR satellite) and ALOS-3 (optical satellite) in accordance with Japan's new space program.

    The state-of-the-art L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) aboard ALOS-2, which is an active microwave radar using the 1.2 GHz frequency range, which, in responding to society's needs, has enhanced performance. The SAR is capable of observing day and night, and in all weather conditions.

    ALOS-2 has a spotlight mode (1 to 3 m) and a high resolution mode (3 to 10 m). It allows comprehensive monitoring of...

    read more
    24/05/2014
  • Sentinel-1 is a two satellite constellation with the prime objectives of land and ocean monitoring. The goal of the mission is to provide C-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data continuity following the retirement of ERS-2 and the end of the Envisat mission.
    To accomplish this the satellites carry a C-SAR sensor, which offers medium and high resolution imaging in all weather conditiions. The C-SAR is capable of obtaining night imagery and detecting small movement on the ground, which makes it useful for land and sea monitoring.
    Sentinel-1 will work in a pre-programmed operation mode to avoid conflicts and to produce a consistent long-term data archive built for applications based on long time series.
    The mission benefits numerous services. For example, services that relate to the monitoring of Arctic sea-ice extent, routine sea-ice mapping, surveillance of the marine environment, including oil-spill monitoring and ship detection for maritime security,...

    read more
    03/04/2014
  • The FY-3 series of CMA/NSMC (China Meteorological Administration/National Satellite Meteorological Center) represents the second generation of Chinese polar-orbiting meteorological satellites (follow-on of FY-1 series). The FY-3 series represents a cooperative program between CMA and CNSA (China National Space Administration); it was initially approved in 1998 and entered full-scale development in 1999. Key aspects of the FY-3 satellite series include collecting atmospheric data for intermediate- and long-term weather forecasting and global climate research.
    The FY-3 series satellites monitor large-scale meteorological disasters, weather-induced secondary natural hazards and environment changes, and provides geophysical parameters for scientific research in climate change and its variability, climate diagnosis, and predictions. The FY-3 series renders global and regional meteorological information for aviation, ocean navigation, agriculture, forestry, marine activities,...

    read more
    23/09/2013
  • KOMPSAT-5 is an earth observation satellite equipped with Korea's first all-weather SAR.
    The SAR mounted on KOMPSAT-5 emits microwaves to an object on the ground and synthesizes the reflected signal to produce an image. It enables ground observation even during nighttime and poor weather conditions.
    As the SAR image can supplement the optical camera, which can record only the visible light spectrum, it is utilized in mutual supplementary operations with the high-resolution optical images of KOMPSAT-3 and KOMPSAT-3A.
    KOMPSAT-5 observes the Korean Peninsula four times a day. The transmitted image data are used for public safety, natural disaster forecasts, land/resource management and environmental monitoring.

    The primary mission of the KOMPSAT-5 system is to provide high resolution mode SAR images of 1 meter resolution, standard mode SAR images of 3 meter resolution and wide swath mode SAR images of 20 meter resolution with viewing conditions of the incidence...

    read more
    22/08/2013
  • Resurs-P1 is a Russian Earth observation satellite designed and developed at TsSKB Progress (Progress State Research and Production Space Center) in Samara, Russia. Roskosmos is funding the project (owner and operator of the spacecraft under the Russian Federal Space Program), the commercial data distributor is Sovzond JSC of Moscow. The spacecraft is operated by NTs OMZ (Research Center for Operational Earth Monitoring), Moscow, Russia.

    Resurs-P1 is meant to replace the Resurs-DK, a previous generation spacecraft, which was launched on June 15, 2006.

    Resurs-P carries the Geoton-L1 hyperspectral imaging payload as the main imaging instrumet. The optics have an apperture of 0.5 m and provides images with a ground resolution of 1.0 m in panchromatic mode and a resolution of 3 to 4 m in color mode. The Geoton-L1 system has 7 passbands and a 216-channel hyperspectral imager.

    Aditionallym the KShMSA wide field multispectral camera...

    read more
    25/06/2013
  • Gaofen-1 (gao fen = high resolution) is the first of a series of high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites of CNSA (China National Space Administration), Beijing, China. The civilian HDEOS (High-Definition Earth Observation Satellite) program was proposed in 2006, it received government approval and was initiated in 2010. China plans to launch six HDEOS spacecraft between 2013 and 2016. The major users of the observation data will be the Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
    The GF-1 spacecraft was launched on April 26, 2013 on a CZ-2D (Long March -2D) vehicle from the JSLC (Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center) in northwest China.

    Instruments:
    PMC (PAN and Multispectral camera)
    WFI (Wide Field Imager)

    26/04/2013

Term Parents

UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices with hazard-specific expertise