Tsunami Vs Hurricane — Detailed Comparison

Tsunami Vs Hurricane

Tsunamis and hurricanes are natural disasters that affect many coastal areas globally. Both of these phenomena occur in the oceans and seas. Therefore, the Tsunami Vs. Hurricane comparison is sometimes hard for people to understand. The following discussion will try to clear that up.

Although these disasters are related to large bodies of water, there is much difference in the cause, nature, impact, and management of the two. The main difference is that one of these is a series of waves while the other is a storm system.

Understanding the difference between the two is a minimum requirement for any concerned citizen of any country. So, read on to increase your knowledge of these calamities.


What is a Tsunami?

A Tsunami is a series of Waves on a large body of water. But unlike typical waves, tsunamis are not a result of the gravitational pull of celestial bodies. Instead, it happens when there is a sudden shift of water volume at the bottom of the ocean.

Tsunami is a Japanese word. It roughly translates to ‘Harbour Wave’. Recently, significant Tsunamis happened in Indonesia (2018), Japan (2011), and Chile (2010).

The Indian Ocean Tsunami is the most devastating in modern history. It claimed over 200,000 lives in the bay area. Plus, countless injuries and destruction to properties and businesses. The affected countries suffered a total 9.4-billion-dollar economic loss.



Causes of Tsunami

A tsunami can result from both natural and artificial causes. Because all it takes is displacing a significant volume of water under the sea. And the likeliness of that happening is as real for an earthquake as it is for an artificial explosion. There was even an attempt during the Second World War to create a Tsunami Bomb.

However, an absolute Tsunami bomb is still fiction. And although detonation of a series of underwater bombs might create somewhat of a tidal wave, its impact won’t be anywhere near the Tsunamis that occur from natural causes.

There are four major natural causes of Tsunami- underwater earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or an asteroid or meteorite hitting the ocean. The last cause is a theory. It’s highly unlikely to happen. And if it does the results will be catastrophic.


The Mechanism of Tsunami

If the epicenter or fault line of an earthquake is on the ocean bed or nearby, it can result in a Tsunami. These are usually tectonic earthquakes. Which means they are related to the crustal deformation of the earth.

A 7.5 Richter scale earthquake under the sea will impact thousands of miles in the seabed. It will cause deformity in those areas. As a result, the seawater is forced away from its normal equilibrium.

However, gravity pulls on this displaced water and tries to set it back to its equilibrium position. All this leads to the water column moving vertically. And this movement gives rise to huge, powerful Tsunami waves.

Landslides, rockfalls, ice-falls can displace large volumes of water and cause Tsunami. Besides these, a Tsunami causing Landslides can have artificial reasons too.

Such an incident occurred in the ’80s at the harbor of Thebes. The construction of an airport runway in the coastal area of Southern France was going on and an accidental underwater landslide resulted from the construction work.

Mechanism of Tsunami

Ways to Mitigate Tsunami

We cannot prevent Tsunamis from happening. Because the tectonic plates of the earth will always be on the move.

And some of those movements will keep on causing Tsunamis from time to time. However, we can take certain measures to ensure there are no lives lost and at the same time mitigate the economic losses.

First of all, we have to build our structures as far away from the hazard area as possible. Identifying the risky spots and avoiding them altogether is the most effective way to decrease the number of deaths.

Secondly, creating forests, digging ditches, and building slopes, berms are effective in slowing down the huge waves. Strategic placement of paved roads and angled walls can steer the income water in a planned direction and help you practice more control over the overall effect of the Tsunami.


What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a tropical storm with wind speeds exceeding 63 knots. The average hurricane is around five hundred miles wide and ten-mile tall. It usually moves at a speed of 17 knots. If the speed of the spinning winds is less than sixty-three knots then it is categorized as a tropical storm rather than a hurricane.

Usually, the tropical storms in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Northeast Pacific Ocean are referred to as Hurricanes. In the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, these storms are known as cyclones. Meanwhile, in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, they are known as Typhoons.

All these tropical storms have a center of low pressure. The spinning column of air rotates around this center. The low-pressure results in strong destructive winds and heavy rains.

What Are Hurricanes? | NASA


Ingredients for a Hurricane

A Hurricane usually forms when three things are present simultaneously. The first is the temperature. A minimum sea surface temperature of 80 degrees is required. The warm temperature provides the necessary moisture that strengthens the storm.

Secondly, there needs to be an area of low pressure. It might also be an area that already had some spin. And thirdly, to stand tall and fight incoming strong winds, the hurricane needs a light vertical wind gradient.


How does a Hurricane Form?

When the sea surface gets hotter than eighty degrees, warm moist forms over the water. And being warm this air rises upwards. This creates a vacancy. So, cold air comes to fill up the void.

Eventually, this air gets warm too and rises upwards. Meanwhile again cool air comes to take its place. This process continues for some time.

This results in the formation of large clouds and thunderstorms. The storms keep on growing. And as they grow, due to the earth’s Coriolis Effect, they begin to rotate. The area around which the storms rotate is called the eye. This is an area of descending air and the immediate wall of air outside it contains the strongest winds.

How Hurricanes Form - Texas State University


Preparations for a Hurricane

When a Hurricane is about to hit your locality, the first thing you need to do is create a disaster kit. The kit should include water, dry foods, flashlights, and necessary medical supplies.

You might also want to write down the important phone numbers and contact details on paper, just in case you are not able to charge your cell phone.

Usually, the local authorities will be informing the people about ‘what-to-do’ and ‘where-to-go’ when a hurricane is about to hit your area. Keep updated on their instructions. And don’t hesitate to move to the recommended shelters.

Before moving out, take with you all the important documents like passports, ids, wills, etc.


Tsunami Vs. Hurricane: A Comparison

The main difference between them probably lies in what the two are. A Tsunami is a series of waves in the ocean. Whereas, a Hurricane is a spinning column of air. This is the major identifying difference between the two. One is a wave and the other is a storm.

There is also an important contrast between the causes of these disasters. A Tsunami occurs from underwater earthquakes and volcanic explosions. It has no relation to wind forces or temperature. Plus, the origin of the cause is at the seabed or deep underwater.

On the other hand, the cause of a Hurricane is usually at the sea surface. It has almost nothing to do with a shift in water volume or movement of tectonic waves. The incident of a Hurricane is dependent on temperature change and forces of wind.

In contrast to Hurricanes, Tsunamis don’t have a specific season. Hurricanes mostly occur in the warm seasons. For every region prone to Hurricanes, there is a certain time of the year when the storms predictably increase in numbers.

But Tsunamis are not a yearly or seasonal phenomenon. It doesn’t follow a predictable pattern and significant Tsunamis only happen years apart. This is another important difference between the two. That Hurricanes are far more predictable than Tsunamis.

Lastly, there is a significant difference in the management and planning of these two disasters. In the case of a Tsunami, the preparation starts when building the city. Hurricane preparation only starts when the season is at hand or there is a weather forecast.

If your city is in a Tsunami risk area, then the roads, pavements, walls, buildings everything needs to be designed so that you can steer away from water when the wave hits.

On the other hand, preparation for a hurricane doesn’t necessarily start when you build the city. And the management process is more concerned with wind impacts rather than water damage.

Therefore, trimming down branches, getting rid of sharp and pointy structures that are randomly lying around, is the most vital part of Hurricane preparation.




Understanding the Tsunami Vs. Hurricane comparison is essential for any concerned citizen. Because most of the time these incidents are beyond our control. But a proper understanding can help us to mitigate the damages and take appropriate measures to prevent the loss of a single life and life-affecting damages.

I hope you find the article informative, share it with your family and friends.

Happy learning!!

Related Topic: Tsunami Vs Typhoon

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