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.
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.
Most tsunamis–about 80 percent–happen within the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” a geologically active area where tectonic shifts make volcanoes and earthquakes common.
Tsunamis may also be caused by underwater landslides or volcanic eruptions. They may even be launched, as they