STORM SURGE VS. TSUNAMI- WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
As hurricane Irma sweeps across Florida it brings with it storm surge.
We often refer to storm surge as a “wall of water” which brings to mind tsunamis.
So what is the difference between a tsunami and storm surge?
They are both long gravity waves which get amplified in shallow water, but they are caused by totally different phenomena.
Storm surge is cause by hurricanes and happens far more often than tsunamis. Storm surge is cause by on shore winds pushing water on to the coastline on the left side of the hurricane as it spins counter clockwise.
Tsunamis occur far less often than storm surge and bring with them much more loss of life and damage. While they are both a wall of water, tsunamis originate from earthquakes or seismologic activity. Tsunamis can reach thousands of miles where storm surge occurs right along the coastlines.
Tsunamis are energy dependent and it dosen’t matter what hemisphere they occur in. Once an earthquake happens scientists can predict where the tsunami might make landfall based on the size of the ocean. In the Pacific ocean it can take 8-10 hours to travel long distances, where in the Indian ocean it can make landfall in under 3 hours.
Storm surge on the other hand can be predicted days out based on forecasts of the track of the hurricane. We forecast big storm surge in south Florida several days before Irma made landfall and shortly after landfall we saw scenes like this one in Miami.
Both storm surge and tsunamis are walls of water that quickly come on shore and can cause massive destruction. Fortunately we can predict storm surge days before it occurs unlike tsunamis so residents of affected areas can make the necessary preparations.
For WeatherNation – Ashleigh Costanza