When one thinks of all the natural disasters, that could effect the Maryland and Washington D.C. area they often think of hurricanes and snowstorms. They often forget about the possibility of a tsunami. A tsunami, often referred to as a "tidal wave", is a wave train, or series of waves, generated in a body of water by an impulsive disturbance that vertically displaces the water column. Being located on the Atlantic coastline the possibility of a tsunami is very much a reality. But have you ever wanted to know what can cause waves of this magnitude?

Tsunamis are usually caused by earthquakes that occur on the seafloor or in coastal areas. The energy generated by the earthquake is transmitted through the water. In deep oceans the energy in these sea waves can travel unnoticed because the wave height may be only twelve inches. When this energy reaches the shallow waters of coastlines, bays, or harbors, it forces the water into a giant wave. Some tsunamis may reach heights of 100 feet or more.

Rarely but possibly cosmic collisions can cause a tsunami. Things like meteors or asteroids impacting in the middle of the ocean will disturb the water from above. These cosmic bodies will start a tsunami on its destructive course. No one has actually witnessed such an event, except in the movie Deep Impact. But computer simulations show that these giant tsunamis are indeed possible.

Lastly, submarine landslides, which often accompany large earthquakes, can also disturb the water as sediment and rock slump downslope and are redistributed across the sea floor. When these large amounts of dirt, mud, or sand slides into the ocean it often generates an uplift in the water causing a tsunami.

Earthquakes, cosmic collisions, and landslides are just few causes of a tsunami. Even though the Maryland and Washington D.C. area are more likely to have a hurricane or a snowstorm, we must not ever forget the constant threat of having a tsunami.