Saturday, May 16, 2009


An Earthquake :is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer, also known as a seismograph. The moment magnitude of an earthquake is conventionally reported, or the related and mostly obsolete Richter magnitude, with magnitude 3 or lower earthquakes being mostly imperceptible and magnitude 7 causing serious damage over large areas. Intensity of shaking is measured on the modified Mercalli scale.
At the Earth's surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by shaking and sometimes displacing the ground. When a large earthquake
epicenter is located offshore, the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity.
In its most generic sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event—whether a natural
phenomenon or an event caused by humans—that generates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear experiments. An earthquake's point of initial rupture is called its focus or hypocenter. The term epicenter refers to the point at ground level directly above the hypocenter.

Tectonic earthquakes will occur anywhere within the earth where there is sufficient stored elastic strain energy to drive fracture propagation along a fault plane. In the case of transform or convergent type plate boundaries, which form the largest fault surfaces on earth, they will move past each other smoothly and aseismically only if there are no irregularities or asperities along the boundary that increase the frictional resistance. Most boundaries do have such asperities and this leads to a form of stick-slip behaviour. Once the boundary has locked, continued relative motion between the plates leads to increasing stress and therefore, stored strain energy in the volume around the fault surface. This continues until the stress has risen sufficiently to break through the asperity, suddenly allowing sliding over the locked portion of the fault, releasing the stored energy. This energy is released as a combination of radiated elastic strain seismic waves, frictional heating of the fault surface, and cracking of the rock, thus causing an earthquake. This process of gradual build-up of strain and stress punctuated by occasional sudden earthquake failure is referred to as the Elastic-rebound theory. It is estimated that only 10 percent or less of an earthquake's total energy is radiated as seismic energy. Most of the earthquake's energy is used to power the earthquake fracture growth or is converted into heat generated by friction. Therefore, earthquakes lower the Earth's available elastic potential energy and raise its temperature, though these changes are negligible compared to the conductive and convective flow of heat out from the Earth's deep interior.

Earthquake fault types

There are three main types of fault that may cause an earthquake: normal, reverse (thrust) and strike-slip. Normal and reverse faulting are examples of dip-slip, where the displacement along the fault is in the direction of
dip and movement on them involves a vertical component. Normal faults occur mainly in areas where the crust is being extended such as a divergent boundary. Reverse faults occur in areas where the crust is being shortened such as at a convergent boundary. Strike-slip faults are steep structures where the two sides of the fault slip horizontally past each other ; transform boundaries are a particular type of strike-slip fault. Many earthquakes are caused by movement on faults that have components of both dip-slip and strike-slip; this is known as oblique slip.

Earthquakes away from plate boundaries
Where plate boundaries occur within continental lithosphere, deformation is spread out a over a much larger area than the plate boundary itself. In the case of the
San Andreas fault continental transform, many earthquakes occur away from the plate boundary and are related to strains developed within the broader zone of deformation caused by major irregularities in the fault trace (e.g. the “Big bend” region). The Northridge earthquake was associated with movement on a blind thrust within such a zone. Another example is the strongly oblique convergent plate boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian plates where it runs through the northwestern part of the Zagros mountains. The deformation associated with this plate boundary is partitioned into nearly pure thrust sense movements perpendicular to the boundary over a wide zone to the southwest and nearly pure strike-slip motion along the Main Recent Fault close to the actual plate boundary itself. This is demonstrated by earthquake focal mechanisms.
All tectonic plates have internal stress fields caused by their interactions with neighbouring plates and sedimentary loading or unloading (e.g. deglaciation). These stresses may be sufficient to cause failure along existing fault planes, giving rise to
intraplate earthquakes.

Shallow-focus and deep-focus earthquakes
The majority of tectonic earthquakes originate at the ring of fire in depths not exceeding tens of kilometers. Earthquakes occurring at a depth of less than 70 km are classified as 'shallow-focus' earthquakes, while those with a focal-depth between 70 and 300 km are commonly termed 'mid-focus' or 'intermediate-depth' earthquakes. In
subduction zones, where older and colder oceanic crust descends beneath another tectonic plate, deep-focus earthquakes may occur at much greater depths (ranging from 300 up to 700 kilometers).These seismically active areas of subduction are known as Wadati-Benioff zones. Deep-focus earthquakes occur at a depth at which the subducted lithosphere should no longer be brittle, due to the high temperature and pressure. A possible mechanism for the generation of deep-focus earthquakes is faulting caused by olivine undergoing a phase transition into a spinel structure.

Earthquakes and volcanic activity
Earthquakes often occur in volcanic regions and are caused there, both by
tectonic faults and the movement of magma in volcanoes. Such earthquakes can serve as an early warning of volcanic eruptions, like during the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980.Earthquake swarms serve as markers for the location of the flowing magma throughout the volcanoes. In the United States, these are then recorded by seismometers and tiltimeters (a device which measures the ground slope) and used as sensors to predict imminent or upcoming eruptions.

Earthquake clusters
Most earthquakes form part of a sequence, related to each other in terms of location and time.Most earthquake clusters consist of small tremors which cause little to no damage, but there is a theory that earthquakes repeat themselves.

Effects/impacts of earthquakes

1755 copper engraving depicting Lisbon in ruins and in flames after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. A tsunami overwhelms the ships in the harbor.
There are many effects of earthquakes including, but not limited to the following:

Shaking and ground rupture
Shaking and ground rupture are the main effects created by earthquakes, principally resulting in more or less severe damage to buildings or other rigid structures. The severity of the local effects depends on the complex combination of the earthquake
magnitude, the distance from epicenter, and the local geological and geomorphological conditions, which may amplify or reduce wave propagation.The ground-shaking is measured by ground acceleration.
Specific local geological, geomorphological, and geostructural features can induce high levels of shaking on the ground surface even from low-intensity earthquakes. This effect is called site or local amplification. It is principally due to the transfer of the
seismic motion from hard deep soils to soft superficial soils and to effects of seismic energy focalization owing to typical geometrical setting of the deposits.
Ground rupture is a visible breaking and displacement of the Earth's surface along the trace of the fault, which may be of the order of several metres in the case of major earthquakes. Ground rupture is a major risk for large engineering structures such as
dams, bridges and nuclear power stations and requires careful mapping of existing faults to identify any likely to break the ground surface within the life of the structure.

Landslides and avalanches
Main article:
Landslides are a major geologic hazard because they can happen at any place in the world, much like earthquakes. Severe storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity, coastal wave attack, and wildfires can all produce slope instability. Landslide danger may be possible even though emergency personnel are attempting rescue.


Fires of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
Following an earthquake, fires can be generated by break of the electrical power or gas lines. In the event of water mains rupturing and a loss of pressure, it may also become difficult to stop the spread of a fire once it has started. For example, the deaths in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were caused more by the fires than by the earthquake itself.

Soil liquefaction
Soil liquefaction occurs when, because of the shaking, water-saturated granular material (such as sand) temporarily loses its strength and transforms from a solid to a liquid. Soil liquefaction may cause rigid structures, as buildings or bridges, to tilt or sink into the liquefied deposits. This can be a devastating effect of earthquakes. For example, in the 1964 Alaska earthquake, many buildings were sunk into the ground by soil liquefaction, eventually collapsing upon themselves.


The tsunami of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

Tsunamis are long-wavelength, long-period sea waves produced by an sudden or abrupt movement of large volumes of water. In the open ocean, the distance between wave crests can surpass 100 kilometers, and the wave periods can vary from five minutes to one hour. Such tsunamis travel 600-800 kilometers per hour, depending on water depth. Large waves produced by an earthquake or a submarine landslide can overrun nearby coastal areas in a matter of minutes. Tsunamis can also travel thousands of kilometers across open ocean and wreak destruction on far shores hours after the earthquake that generated them.
Ordinarily, subduction earthquakes under magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale do not cause tsunamis, although some instances of this have been recorded. Most destructive tsunamis are caused by earthquakes of magnitude 7.5 or more.


A flood is an overflow of any amount of water that reaches land.Floods usually occur because of the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, exceeds the total capacity of the formation, and as a result some of the water flows or sits outside of the normal perimeter of the body. However, floods may be secondary effects of earthquakes, if dams are damaged. Earthquakes may cause landslips to dam rivers, which then collapse and cause floods.
The terrain below the
Sarez Lake in Tajikistan is in danger of catastrophic flood if the landslide dam formed by the earthquake, known as the Usoi Dam, were to fail during a future earthquake. Impact projections suggest the flood could affect roughly 5 million people.

Human impacts
Earthquakes may result in
disease, lack of basic necessities, loss of life, higher insurance premiums, general property damage, road and bridge damage, and collapse of buildings or destabilization of the base of buildings; this may lead to collapse in future earthquakes. Earthquakes can also precede volcanic eruptions, which cause further problems; for example, substantial crop damage, like in the "Year Without a Summer" (1816).


A Flood: is an overflow or accumulation of an expanse of water that submerges land, a deluge.In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Flooding may result from the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, which overflows, with the result that some of the water escapes its normal boundaries.While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, it is not a significant flood unless such escapes of water endanger land areas used by man like a village, city or other inhabited area.
Floods can also occur in rivers, when the strength of the river is so high it flows out of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders and cause damage to homes and businesses along such rivers. While flood damage can be virtually eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, since time out of mind, people have lived and worked by the water to seek sustenance and capitalize on the gains of cheap and easy travel and commerce by being near water. That humans continue to inhabit areas threatened by flood damage is only evidence that the value of being near the water far exceeds the costs of repeated periodic flooding.


Riverine floods

Flooding of a creek due to heavy monsoonal rain and high tide in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Slow kinds: Runoff from sustained rainfall or rapid snow melt exceeding the capacity of a river's channel. Causes include heavy rains from monsoons, hurricanes and tropical depressions, foreign winds and warm rain affecting snow pack. Unexpected drainage obstructions such as landslides, ice, or debris can cause slow flooding upstream of the obstruction.
Fast kinds: include flash floods resulting from convective precipitation (intense
thunderstorms) or sudden release from an upstream impoundment created behind a dam, landslide, or glacier.

Estuarine floods
Commonly caused by a combination of sea tidal surges caused by storm-force winds. A
storm surge, from either a tropical cyclone or an extratropical cyclone, falls within this category.

Coastal floods

Flooding near Key West, Florida, United States from Hurricane Wilma's storm surge in October 2005
Caused by severe sea storms, or as a result of another hazard (e.g.
tsunami or hurricane). A storm surge, from either a tropical cyclone or an extratropical cyclone, falls within this category.

Catastrophic floods
Caused by a significant and unexpected event e.g.
dam breakage, or as a result of another hazard (e.g. earthquake or volcanic eruption).

Muddy floods
muddy flood is generated by run off on crop land.
A muddy flood is produced by an accumulation of runoff generated on cropland. Sediments are then detached by runoff and carried as suspended matter or bedload. Muddy runoff is more likely detected when it reaches inhabited areas.
Muddy floods are therefore a hillslope process, and confusion with mudflows produced by mass movements should be avoided.


Flash flooding caused by a severe thunderstorm.
Floods can occur if water accumulates across an impermeable surface (e.g. from rainfall) and cannot rapidly dissipate (i.e. gentle orientation or low evaporation).
series of storms moving over the same area.
Dam-building beavers can flood low-lying urban and rural areas, often causing significant damage.


Primary effects
Physical damage - Can range anywhere from bridges, cars, buildings,
sewer systems, roadway, canals and any other type of structure.
Casualties - People and livestock die due to drowning. It can also lead to epidemics and diseases.

Secondary effects
Water supplies -
Contamination of water. Clean drinking water becomes scarce.
Diseases - Unhygienic conditions. Spread of
water-borne diseases.
Crops and food supplies - Shortage of food crops can be caused due to loss of entire harvest.However, lowlands near rivers depend upon river silt deposited by floods in order to add nutrients to the local soil.
Trees - Non-tolerant species can die from suffocation.
Economic - Economic hardship, due to: temporary decline in tourism, rebuilding costs, food shortage leading to price increase etc.


Autumn Mediterreania flooding in Alicante (Spain), 1997.

In many countries across the world, rivers prone to floods are often carefully managed. Defences such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. When these defences fail, emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are used. Coastal flooding has been addressed in Europe and the Americas with coastal defences, such as sea walls, beach nourishment, and barrier islands.

London is protected from flooding by a huge mechanical barrier across the River Thames, which is raised when the water level reaches a certain point (see Thames Barrier).
Venice has a similar arrangement, although it is already unable to cope with very high tides. The defenses of both London and Venice would be rendered inadequate if sea levels were to rise.

Flood blocking the road in Jerusalem
The largest and most elaborate flood defenses can be found in the Netherlands, where they are referred to as Delta Works with the Oosterschelde dam as its crowning achievement. These works were built in response to the North Sea flood of 1953 of the southwestern part of the Netherlands. The Dutch had already built one of the world's largest dams in the north of the country: the Afsluitdijk (closing occurred in 1932).
Currently the
Saint Petersburg Flood Prevention Facility Complex is to be finished by 2008, in Russia, to protect Saint Petersburg from storm surges. It also has a main traffic function, as it completes a ring road around Saint Petersburg. Eleven dams extend for 25.4 kilometres and stand eight metres above water level.
Austria, flooding for over 150 years, has been controlled by various actions of the Vienna Danube regulation, with dredging of the main Danube during 1870-75, and creation of the New Danube from 1972-1988.


Flooding near Snoqualmie, Washington, 2009.
Another elaborate system of floodway defences can be found in the Canadian province of
Manitoba. The Red River flows northward from the United States, passing through the city of Winnipeg (where it meets the Assiniboine River) and into Lake Winnipeg. As is the case with all north-flowing rivers in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, snowmelt in southern sections may cause river levels to rise before northern sections have had a chance to completely thaw. This can lead to devastating flooding, as occurred in Winnipeg during the spring of 1950. To protect the city from future floods, the Manitoba government undertook the construction of a massive system of diversions, dikes, and floodways (including the Red River Floodway and the Portage Diversion). The system kept Winnipeg safe during the 1997 flood which devastated many communities upriver from Winnipeg, including Grand Forks, North Dakota and Ste. Agathe, Manitoba.
In the U.S., the
New Orleans Metropolitan Area, 35% of which sits below sea level, is protected by hundreds of miles of levees and flood gates. This system failed catastrophically, in numerous sections, during Hurricane Katrina, in the city proper and in eastern sections of the Metro Area, resulting in the inundation of approximately 50% of the metropolitan area, ranging from a few centimetres to 8.2 metres (a few inches to 27 feet) in coastal communities. In an act of successful flood prevention, the Federal Government of the United States offered to buy out flood-prone properties in the United States in order to prevent repeated disasters after the 1993 flood across the Midwest. Several communities accepted and the government, in partnership with the state, bought 25,000 properties which they converted into wetlands. These wetlands act as a sponge in storms and in 1995, when the floods returned, the government did not have to expend resources in those areas.

China, flood diversion areas are rural areas that are deliberately flooded in emergencies in order to protect cities.
Many have proposed that loss of vegetation (
deforestation) will lead to a risk increase. With natural forest cover the flood duration should decrease. Reducing the rate of deforestation should improve the incidents and severity of floods.

Egypt, both the Aswan Dam (1902) and the Aswan High Dam (1976) have controlled various amounts of flooding along the Nile river.

Flood clean-up safety
Clean-up activities following floods often pose hazards to workers and volunteers involved in the effort. Potential dangers include: water polluted by mixing with and causing overflows from foul sewers,
electrical hazards, carbon monoxide exposure, musculoskeletal hazards, heat or cold stress, motor vehicle-related dangers, fire, drowning, and exposure to hazardous materials.Because flooded disaster sites are unstable, clean-up workers might encounter sharp jagged debris, biological hazards in the flood water, exposed electrical lines, blood or other body fluids, and animal and human remains. In planning for and reacting to flood disasters, managers provide workers with hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, life jackets, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles.


An Ice storm: is a type of winter storm characterized by freezing rain, also known as a glaze event or in some parts of the United States as a silver thaw. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an ice storm as a storm which results in the accumulation of at least 0.25-inch (0.64 cm) of ice on exposed surfaces.From 1982 to 1994, ice storms were more common than blizzards and averaged 16 per year.

Ice storms occur when a layer of warm air is between two layers of cold air. Frozen precipitation melts while falling into the warm air layer, and then proceeds to refreeze in the cold layer above the ground. If the precipitate is partially melted, it will land on the ground as sleet. However, if the warm layer completely melts the precipitate, becoming rain, the liquid droplets will continue to fall, and pass through a thin layer of cold air just above the surface. This thin layer of air then cools the rain to a temperature below freezing (0 °C). However, the drops themselves do not freeze, a phenomenon called supercooling (or forming "supercooled drops"). When the supercooled drops strike ground below 0 °C or anything else below 0 °C (power lines, tree branches, air craft), they instantly freeze, forming a thin film of ice, hence freezing rain.
While meteorologists can predict when and where an ice storm will occur, some storms still occur with little or no warning. Most ice storms are thought to form primarily in the north-eastern US, but damaging storms have occurred farther south. An ice storm in February 1994 resulted in tremendous ice accumulation as far south as Mississippi, and caused reported damage in nine states. More timber was damaged than that caused by
Hurricane Camille. An ice storm in eastern Washington in November 1996 directly followed heavy snowfall. The combined weight of the snow and 25 millimetres (0.98 in) to 37 millimetres (1.5 in) of ice caused considerable widespread damage. This was considered to be the most severe ice storm in the Spokane area since 1940.

The freezing rain from an ice storm covers everything with heavy, smooth glaze ice. Ice-covered roads become slippery and hazardous, as the ice causes vehicles to skid out of control, which can cause devastating car crashes as well as pile-ups. Pedestrians are severely affected as sidewalks become slippery, causing people to slip and fall, and outside stairs can become an extreme injury hazard.
In addition to hazardous driving or walking conditions, branches or even whole trees may break from the weight of ice. Falling branches can block roads, tear down power and telephone lines, and cause other damage. Even without falling trees and tree branches, the weight of the ice itself can easily snap power lines and also break and bring down power/utility poles; even steel frame
electricity pylons have been sent crashing to the ground by the weight of the ice. This can leave people without power for anywhere from several days to a month. According to most meteorologists, just one quarter of an inch of ice accumulation can add about 500 pounds of weight per line span. Damage from ice storms is highly capable of shutting down entire metropolitan areas.


Hail: is a form of precipitation which consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice (hailstones). Hailstones on Earth usually consist mostly of water ice and measure between 5 and 150 millimeters in diameter, with the larger stones coming from severe and dangerous thunderstorms. It sometimes, though not always, occurs during a tornado warning but not as a result of a tornado itself. Hail can occur within any thunderstorm.Hail is only produced by cumulonimbi (thunderclouds), usually at the front of the storm system, and is composed of transparent ice or alternating layers of transparent and translucent ice at least 1 mm thick. The METAR code for hail 5 mm or greater in diameter is GR, while smaller hailstones and graupel are coded GS. Unlike ice pellets, they are layered and can be irregular and clumped together.

Hail forms in storm clouds when supercooled water droplets freeze on contact with condensation nuclei, such as dust or dirt. The storm's updraft blows the hailstones to the upper part of the cloud. The updraft dissipates and the hailstones fall down, back into the updraft, and are lifted up again. The hailstone gains an ice layer and grows increasingly larger with each ascent. Once a hailstone becomes too heavy to be supported by the storm's updraft, it falls from the cloud.
In large hailstones,
latent heat released by further freezing may melt the outer shell of the hailstone. The hailstone then may undergo 'wet growth', where the liquid outer shell collects other smaller hailstones.
Hail forms in strong
thunderstorm clouds, particularly those with intense updrafts, high liquid water content, great vertical extent, large water droplets, and where a good portion of the cloud layer is below freezing 0 °C (32 °F). The growth rate is maximized at about −13 °C (9 °F), and becomes vanishingly small much below −30 °C (−22 °F) as supercooled water droplets become rare. For this reason, hail is most common in mid-latitudes during early summer where surface temperatures are warm enough to promote the instability associated with strong thunderstorms, but the upper atmosphere is still cool enough to support tegan ice. Accordingly, hail is actually less common in the tropics despite a much higher frequency of thunderstorms than in the mid-latitudes because the atmosphere over the tropics tends to be warmer over a much greater depth. Also, entrainment of dry air into strong thunderstorms over continents can increase the frequency of hail by promoting evaporational cooling which lowers the freezing level of thunderstorm clouds giving hail a larger volume to grow in.
Hail is also much more common along mountain ranges because mountains force horizontal winds upwards (known as
orographic lifting), thereby intensifying the updrafts within thunderstorms and making hail more likely. One of the most notorious regions for large hail is the mountainous northern India and Bangladesh, which have reported more hail-related deaths than anywhere else in the world and also some of the largest hailstones ever measured. Mainland China is also notorious for killer hailstorms. In North America, hail is most common in the area where Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming meet, known as "Hail Alley." Cheyenne, Wyoming is North America's most hail-prone city with an average of nine to ten hailstorms per season.
Hailstones, while most commonly only a few millimetres in
diameter, can sometimes grow to 15 centimetres (6 in) and weigh more than 0.5 kilograms (1.1 lb). Pea or golf ball-sized hailstones are not uncommon in severe storms. Hail can do serious damage, notably to automobiles, skylights, glass-roofed structures, and most commonly, farmers' crops. Rarely, massive hailstones have been known to cause concussions or fatal head trauma. Hail-producing clouds are often identifiable by their green coloration.


A Tropical cyclone: is a storm system characterized by a large low pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and flooding rain. Tropical cyclones feed on heat released when moist air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor contained in the moist air. They are fueled by a different heat mechanism than other cyclonic windstorms such as nor'easters, European windstorms, and polar lows, leading to their classification as "warm core" storm systems.
The term "tropical" refers to both the geographic origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively in
tropical regions of the globe, and their formation in Maritime Tropical air masses. The term "cyclone" refers to such storms' cyclonic nature, with counterclockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by many other names, such as hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone.
While tropical cyclones can produce extremely powerful winds and torrential
rain, they are also able to produce high waves and damaging storm surge as well as spawning tornadoes. They develop over large bodies of warm water, and lose their strength if they move over land. This is the reason coastal regions can receive significant damage from a tropical cyclone, while inland regions are relatively safe from receiving strong winds. Heavy rains, however, can produce significant flooding inland, and storm surges can produce extensive coastal flooding up to 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the coastline. Although their effects on human populations can be devastating, tropical cyclones can also relieve drought conditions. They also carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it toward temperate latitudes, which makes them an important part of the global atmospheric circulation mechanism. As a result, tropical cyclones help to maintain equilibrium in the Earth's troposphere, and to maintain a relatively stable and warm temperature worldwide.
Many tropical cyclones
develop when the atmospheric conditions around a weak disturbance in the atmosphere are favorable. Others form when other types of cyclones acquire tropical characteristics. Tropical systems are then moved by steering winds in the troposphere; if the conditions remain favorable, the tropical disturbance intensifies, and can even develop an eye. On the other end of the spectrum, if the conditions around the system deteriorate or the tropical cyclone makes landfall, the system weakens and eventually dissipates. It is not possible to artificially induce the dissipation of these systems with current technology.


A Blizzard: is a severe winter storm condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy blowing snow. Blizzards are formed when a high pressure system, also known as a ridge, interacts with a low pressure system; this results in the advection of air from the high pressure zone into the low pressure area.

Some areas are more likely to experience blizzards than others, but blizzards may occur anywhere there are snow and high winds. In North America, blizzards are particularly common to the extreme portions of the Northeastern United States, the Northern Great Plains in the United States, Atlantic Canada, and the Canadian Prairie Provinces. Blizzard conditions also occur frequently in the mountain ranges in western North America, however, since these regions are sparsely populated, they are often not reported.
Worldwide, blizzards often occur across Russia, and into the northern reaches of Europe. They have also been known to occur across the United Kingdom, although severe winter storms there are less common due to the maritime influences of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.


A Tsunami : is a series of waves that is created when a large volume of a body of water, such as an ocean, is rapidly displaced. The Japanese term is literally translated into "(great) harbor wave."
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (detonations of nuclear devices at sea), landslides, bolide impacts, and other mass movements above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Due to the immense volumes of water and energy involved, the effects of tsunamis can be devastating.
Greek historian Thucydides was the first to relate tsunami to submarine quakes, but understanding of the nature of tsunami remained slim until the 20th century and is the subject of ongoing research.
Many early
geological, geographical, and oceanographic texts refer to tsunamis as "seismic sea waves."
meteorological storm conditions such as deep depressions causing cyclones, hurricanes, can generate a storm surge which can be several metres above normal tide levels. This is due to the low atmospheric pressure within the centre of the depression. As these storm surges come ashore, they may resemble (though are not) tsunamis, inundating vast areas of land. Such a storm surge inundated Burma (Myanmar) in May 2008.

A tsunami can be generated when converging or destructive
plate boundaries abruptly move and vertically displace the overlying water. It is very unlikely that they can form at divergent (constructive) or conservative plate boundaries. This is because constructive or conservative boundaries do not generally disturb the vertical displacement of the water column. Subduction zone related earthquakes generate the majority of all tsunamis.
Tsunamis have a small
amplitude (wave height) offshore, and a very long wavelength (often hundreds of kilometers long), which is why they generally pass unnoticed at sea, forming only a slight swell usually about 300 mm above the normal sea surface. They grow in height when they reach shallower water, in a "shoaling" process described below. A tsunami can occur at any state of the tide and even at low tide will still inundate coastal areas if the incoming waves surge high enough.
On April 1, 1946 a Magnitude 7.8 (
Richter Scale) earthquake occurred near the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. It generated a tsunami which inundated Hilo on the island of Hawai'i with a 14 m high surge. The area where the earthquake occurred is where the Pacific Ocean floor is subducting (or being pushed downwards) under Alaska.
Examples of tsunami being generated at locations away from convergent boundaries include
Storegga during the Neolithic era, Grand Banks 1929, Papua New Guinea 1998 (Tappin, 2001). In the case of the Grand Banks and Papua New Guinea tsunamis an earthquake caused sediments to become unstable and subsequently fail. These slumped and as they flowed down slope a tsunami was generated. These tsunami did not travel transoceanic distances.
It is not known what caused the Storegga sediments to fail. It may have been due to overloading of the sediments causing them to become unstable and they then failed solely as a result of being overloaded. It is also possible that an earthquake caused the sediments to become unstable and then fail. Another theory is that a release of gas hydrates (methane etc.,) caused the slump.
The "
Great Chilean earthquake" (19:11 hrs UTC) May 22, 1960 (9.5 Mw), the March 27, 1964 "Good Friday earthquake" Alaska 1964 (9.2 Mw), and the "Great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake" (00:58:53 UTC) December 26, 2004 (9.2 Mw), are recent examples of powerful megathrust earthquakes that generated a tsunami that was able to cross oceans. Smaller (4.2 Mw) earthquakes in Japan can trigger tsunami that can devastate nearby coasts within 15 minutes or less.
In the 1950s it was hypothesised that larger tsunamis than had previously been believed possible may be caused by
landslides, explosive volcanic action e.g., Santorini, Krakatau, and impact events when they contact water. These phenomena rapidly displace large volumes of water, as energy from falling debris or expansion is transferred to the water into which the debris falls at a rate faster than the ocean water can absorb it. They have been named by the media as "mega-tsunami."
Tsunami caused by these mechanisms, unlike the trans-oceanic tsunami caused by some earthquakes, may dissipate quickly and rarely affect coastlines distant from the source due to the small area of sea affected. These events can give rise to much larger local
shock waves (solitons), such as the landslide at the head of Lituya Bay 1958, which produced a wave with an initial surge estimated at 524 m. However, an extremely large gravitational landslide might generate a so called "mega-tsunami" that may have the ability to travel trans-oceanic distances. This though is strongly debated and there is no actual geological evidence to support this hypothesis.


A devastated Marina beach in Chennai after the Indian Ocean Tsunami
While everyday wind waves have a wavelength (from crest to crest) of about 100 metres (330 ft) and a height of roughly 2 metres (6.6 ft), a tsunami in the deep ocean has a wavelength of about 200 kilometres (120 mi). This wave travels at well over 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph), but due to the enormous wavelength the wave oscillation at any given point takes 20 or 30 minutes to complete a cycle and has an amplitude of only about 1 metre (3.3 ft).[
citation needed] This makes tsunamis difficult to detect over deep water. Their passage usually goes unnoticed by ships.
As the tsunami approaches the coast and the waters become shallow, the wave is compressed due to
wave shoaling and its forward travel slows below 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). Its wavelength diminishes to less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) and its amplitude grows enormously, producing a distinctly visible wave. Since the wave still has a wavelength on the order of several km (a few miles), the tsunami may take minutes to ramp up to full height, with victims seeing a massive deluge of rising ocean rather than a cataclysmic wall of water. Open bays and coastlines adjacent to very deep water may shape the tsunami further into a step-like wave with a steep breaking front.

Signs of an approaching tsunami

The monument to the victims of tsunami at Laupahoehoe, Hawaii
There is often no advance warning of an approaching tsunami. However, since earthquakes are often a cause of tsunami, any earthquake occurring near a body of water may generate a tsunami if it occurs at shallow depth, is of moderate or high magnitude, and the water volume and depth is sufficient.
If the first part of a tsunami to reach land is a trough (draw back) rather than a crest of the wave, the water along the shoreline may recede dramatically, exposing areas that are normally always submerged. This can serve as an advance warning of the approaching tsunami which will rush in faster than it is possible to run. If a person is in a coastal area where the sea suddenly draws back (many survivors report an accompanying sucking sound), their only real chance of survival is to run for high ground or seek the high floors of high rise buildings. This occurred in Phuket Thailand, at Maikhao beach. Ten-year old
Tilly Smith of Surrey, England, was on the beach with her parents and sister, and having learned about tsunamis recently in school, was able to warn her family that a tsunami might be imminent. Her parents warned others on the beach and the hotel staff minutes before the tsunami hit. Ms. Smith is credited with saving dozens of lives as a result of her recent geography lesson. She gave credit to her geography teacher, Mr. Andrew Kearney.
In the
2004 tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean drawback was not reported on the African coast or any other eastern coasts it inundated, when the tsunami approached from the east. This was because of the nature of the wave—it moved downwards on the eastern side of the fault line and upwards on the western side. It was the western pulse that inundated coastal areas of Africa and other western areas.
About 80% of all tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, but are possible wherever large bodies of water are found, including inland lakes.[
citation needed] They may be caused by landslides, volcanic explosions, bolides and seismic activity.
According to an article in "Geographical" magazine (April 2008), the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 was not the worst that the region could expect. Professor Costas Synolakis of the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California co-authored a paper in "Geophysical Journal International" which suggests that a future tsunami in the Indian Ocean basin could affect locations such as Madagascar, Singapore, Somalia, Western Australia and many others. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed over 300,000 people with many bodies either being lost to the sea or unidentified. Some unofficial estimates have claimed that approximately 1 million people may have died directly or indirectly solely as a result of the tsunami.

Warnings and prevention

Tsunami hazard sign at Bamfield, British Columbia

Tsunami wall at Tsu, Japan
A tsunami cannot be prevented or precisely predicted—even if the right magnitude of an earthquake occurs in the right location.
Geologists, oceanographers, and seismologists analyse each earthquake and based upon many factors may or may not issue a tsunami warning. However, there are some warning signs of an impending tsunami, and there are many systems being developed and in use to reduce the damage from tsunami. One of the most important systems that is used and constantly monitored are bottom pressure sensors. These are anchored and attached to buoys. Sensors on the equipment constantly monitor the pressure of the overlying water column. This is deduced through the calculation:

P= pgh

whereP = the overlying pressure in Newtons per metre square, ρ = the density of the seawater= 1.1 x 103 kg/m3,g = the acceleration due to gravity= 9.8 m/s2 and h = the height of the water column in metres.

In instances where the leading edge of the tsunami wave is the trough, the sea will recede from the coast half of the wave's period before the wave's arrival. If the slope of the coastal seabed is shallow, this recession can exceed many hundreds of meters. People unaware of the danger may remain at or near the shore out of curiosity, or for collecting fish from the exposed seabed. During the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, the sea withdrew and many people then went onto the exposed sea bed to investigate. Pictures taken show people on the normally submerged areas with the advancing wave in the background. Most people who were on the beach were unable to escape to high ground and died.

Tsunami warning sign on seawall in Kamakura, Japan, 2004. In the Muromachi period, a tsunami struck Kamakura, destroying the wooden building that housed the colossal statue of Amida Buddha at Kotokuin. Since that time, the statue has been outdoors.
Regions with a high risk of tsunami may use
tsunami warning systems to detect tsunami and warn the general population before the wave reaches land. On the west coast of the United States, which is prone to Pacific Ocean tsunami, warning signs advise people of evacuation routes.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning System is based in Honolulu. It monitors all sesimic activity that occurs anywhere within the Pacific. Based up the magnitude and other information a tsunami warning may be issued. It is important to note that the subduction zones around the Pacific are seismically active, but not all earthquakes generate tsunami and for this reason computers are used as a tool to assist in analysing the risk of tsunami generation of each and every earthquake that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and the adjoining land masses.
As a direct result of the Indian Ocean tsunami, a re-appraisal of the tsunami threat of all coastal areas is being undertaken by national governments and the United Nations Disaster Mitigation Committee. A tsunami warning system is currently being installed in the Indian Ocean.
Computer models can predict tsunami arrival—observations have shown that predicted arrival times are usually within minutes of the actual time. Bottom pressure sensors are able to relay information in real time and based upon the readings and other information about the seismic event that triggered it and the shape of the seafloor (bathymetry) and coastal land (topography), it is possible to estimate the amplitude and therefore the surge height, of the approaching tsunami. All the countries that border the Pacific Ocean collaborate in the Tsunami Warning System and most regularly practice evacuation and other procedures to prepare people for the inevitable tsunami. In Japan such preparation is a mandatory requirement of government, local authorities, emergency services and the population.

Tsunami Evacuation Route signage along U.S. Route 101, in Washington
Some zoologists hypothesise that animals may have an ability to sense subsonic Rayleigh waves from an earthquake or a tsunami. Some animals seem to have the ability to detect natural phenomena and if correct, careful observation and monitoring could possibly provide advance warning of earthquakes, tsunami etc. However, the evidence is controversial and has not been proven scientifically. There are some unsubstantiated claims that animals before the Lisbon quake were restless and moved away from low lying areas to higher ground. Yet many other animals in the same areas drowned. The phenomenon was also noted by media sources in Sri Lanka in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.It is possible that certain animals (e.g., elephants) may have heard the sounds of the tsunami as it approached the coast. The elephants reaction was to move away from the approaching noise—inland. Some humans, on the other hand, went to the shore to investigate and many drowned as a result.
It is not possible to prevent a tsunami. However, in some tsunami-prone countries some
earthquake engineering measures have been taken to reduce the damage caused on shore. Japan has implemented an extensive programme of building tsunami walls of up to 4.5 m (13.5 ft) high in front of populated coastal areas. Other localities have built floodgates and channels to redirect the water from incoming tsunami. However, their effectiveness has been questioned, as tsunami often surge higher than the barriers. For instance, the Okushiri, Hokkaidō tsunami which struck Okushiri Island of Hokkaidō within two to five minutes of the earthquake on July 12, 1993 created waves as much as 30 m (100 ft) tall—as high as a 10-story building. The port town of Aonae was completely surrounded by a tsunami wall, but the waves washed right over the wall and destroyed all the wood-framed structures in the area. The wall may have succeeded in slowing down and moderating the height of the tsunami, but it did not prevent major destruction and loss of life.
The effects of a tsunami may be mitigated by natural factors such as tree cover on the shoreline. Some locations in the path of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami escaped almost unscathed as a result of the tsunami's energy being absorbed by trees such as
coconut palms and mangroves. In one striking example, the village of Naluvedapathy in India's Tamil Nadu region suffered minimal damage and few deaths as the wave broke up on a forest of 80,244 trees planted along the shoreline in 2002 in a bid to enter the Guinness Book of Records. Environmentalists have suggested tree planting along stretches of seacoast which are prone to tsunami risks. It would take some years for the trees to grow to a useful size, but such plantations could offer a much cheaper and longer-lasting means of tsunami mitigation than the construction of artificial barriers.