A tsunami can reach heights of over one-hundred feet tall, though most are much smaller. These waves can be caused by a number of different things, including earthquakes, volcanoes or an impact with the surface of the ocean. Tsunamis may be more or less destructive depending on how they are formed. Understanding the destructive potential of a tsunami is extremely important in order to properly prepare to deal with the dangers posed by these waves. Places with active tsunami warning centers are able to protect people from tsunamis by giving them enough time to reach higher ground. Being able to properly predict how high a tsunami wave might get is vital in order to keep people safe.
How is a tsunami generated?How far can a tsunami travel?How big can a tsunami get?
- Clear plastic or glass container at least a few feet long (the longer the better)
- Measuring tape
- Rubber mallet
- Wooden table
- Large rock
- Place the container on the table.
- Fill the container with water to only about 10% of its height.
- Use a marker to make a line on the container where the water level is.
- Using the rubber mallet, pound the top of the table with enough force to generate a wave through the water.
- Watch the water through the tank and mark on the tank how high the wave reaches. Label this “trial 1” on the glass.
- Using the rubber mallet, pound the side of the table with enough force to generate a wave through the water. Try to hit the table as hard as you did in the first trial.
- Watch the water through the tank and mark on the tank how high the wave reaches. Label this “trial 2” on the glass.
- Using the rubber mallet, pound the bottom of the table, underneath the tank, with enough force to generate a wave through the water. Try to hit the table as hard as you did in the first trial.
- Watch the water through the tank and mark on the tank how high the wave reaches. Label this “trial 3” on the glass.
- (optional) Repeat steps 4-9 one or two more times. Make sure that you continue the numbering so that your fourth trial is labeled “trial 4” etc.
- If you are using a glass tank, you will need to drop the rock from a low height so it does not break the glass. Placing a towel at the bottom of the tank will also help protect it from damage.
- Drop the rock into the water.
- Watch the water through the tank and mark on the tank how high the wave reaches. Label this “rock 1” on the glass.
- optional) Repeat steps 12 and 13 one or two more times, the same as you did with the earthquake simulation.
- Using a chart such as the one below, record the results of your experiment by measuring the distance from the baseline of the water to the maximum height of the tsunami.
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