VHP Photo Glossary: Tsunami

People running away from an approaching tsunami in Hilo, Hawai'i, 1946.

Photograph courtesy of the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawai`i


Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning "harbor wave." A tsunami is a wave or series of waves that are generated in a body of water by a sudden disturbance that displaces water. They are typically caused by earthquakes and landslides in coastal regions. Volcanic eruptions, nuclear explosions, and even impact of meteorites, asteroids, and comets from outer space can generate a tsunami.

Photo: People run from an approaching tsunami in Hilo, Hawai'i, on 1 April 1946; note the wave just left of the man's head in right center of image (click on image for larger size).

More information about tsunami

General Information

Tsunami Warning Centers

Tsunami Research Web sites

Did you know?


Simkin, T., and Fiske, R.S., 1983, Krakatau 1883—the volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., p. 464.

Seibert, L., 1984, Large volcanic debris avalanches: characteristics of source areas, deposits, and associated eruptions: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 22, p. 163-197.