Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
EARTH Lesson Plan
tsunami graph

Lesson Plan Resources



This page contains links and information to help students study and understand tsunami using examples from the recent earthquake in Japan and the tsunami event it generated. When large earthquakes displace a significant volume of ocean water, large waves are generated that can propagate great distances across the ocean. Think about the results when a stone is thrown into a small pool. Waves propagate away from the site where the stone suddenly displaced the water. Tsunami waves propagate like these “shallow water” waves. That is, they are so large that they feel the bottom of the ocean. The speed of shallow water waves is proportional to the water depth. Therefore, tsunamis move very quickly (hundreds of miles per hour) in deep water. When they move into shallow water, the waves slow down and, as a result, they increase their height. The local impact of a particular tsunami event, therefore, depends on the location and strength of the initial displacement and the shape of the ocean bottom between that location and the local beach.

Web Resources

Additional Resources

Tsunami in the News

Science Daily: (03/15/11)
Japan Quake May Have Slightly Shortened Earth Days, Moved Axis, Theoretical Calculations Suggest

Quick Lesson Links | Physical Oceanography Page

Last updated: Jul. 16, 2013