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A tsunami is a series of ocean waves that sends surges of water, sometimes reaching heights of over 100 feet (30.5 meters), onto land. These walls of water can cause widespread destruction when they crash ashore.

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Caused of Tsunami These awe-inspiring waves are typically caused by large, undersea earthquakes at tectonic plate boundaries. When the ocean floor at a plate boundary rises or falls suddenly it displaces the water above it and launches the rolling waves that will become a tsunami.

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Tsunamis may also be caused by underwater landslides or volcanic eruptions. They may even be launched, as they frequently were in Earth’s ancient past, by the impact of a large meteorite plunging into an ocean.

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In deep ocean, tsunami waves may appear only a foot or so high. But as they approach shoreline and enter shallower water they slow down and begin to grow in energy and height. The tops of the waves move faster than their bottoms do, which causes them to rise precipitously

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The best defense against any tsunami is early warning that allows people to seek higher ground. The Pacific Tsunami Warning System, a coalition of 26 nations headquartered in Hawaii, maintains a web of seismic equipment and water level gauges to identify tsunamis at sea. Similar systems are proposed to protect coastal areas worldwide.

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