What is it: A Tsunami or a Storm Surge?

It can be inferred that both Tsunami and a Storm surge have similarities and differences. These similarities occur in the area of shallow water behavior and coastal inundation characteristics. But apart from their similarities, still some of us cannot distinguish the difference between Storm surge and a Tsunami, but these two are contrary to the cause, range, time and casualties.

A Storm surge frequently occurs much more than Tsunamis, which are relatively rare for specific areas of the world.

Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water produced by a storm. The primary cause of a storm surge is the strong winds from a hurricane for example or from a tropical storm. The stronger the storm, the higher possibilities of having a Storm surge.

Tsunami immense sea waves which occur mostly because of the underwater events such as earthquake, mudslides or volcanic eruption. An earthquake occurs in the deep ocean water and can violently jolt the seafloor. These walls of water can cause a massive destruction when they crash the shore. In short, Storm surges occur during a storm only but a tsunami can occur when there is an underwater movement.

Tsunamis can race across the sea up to 500 miles or 805 kilometers an hour (about as fast as a jet plane) and at that pace it can cross the entire areas of Pacific Ocean in less than a day. And because of the long wavelengths, they lose very little energy along the way. Whereas storm surges at most can affect few tens of kilometers along coast. A small Tsunami wave reaches only 30 centimeters high but can become huge wave that reaches over 30 meters high. It typically consists of 3 to 10 waves while a storm surge generally has only one peak.

(Picture below is the Tsunami that Hit Japan last 2011)


The hurricanes that generate Storm surge can be seen several days earlier even though the prediction of the exact location of the landfall is quite difficult and is prone to errors. A tsunami can occur anytime at any moment that is why there is no prediction that can be given until the under ocean earthquake actually happens and in the sense of warning time, there is only very limited time than the storm surge.

(Bolivar Peninsula in Texas After Hurricane IKE, 2008)


A tsunami – with enough water and energy can cause destruction especially in populated areas. It can cause disease such as malaria when areas near coast get flooded with sea water, and infrastructure, such as fresh water supplies and sea wage. Damage the environment and even psychological damage. They kill land, sea animals, uproot trees and damage animal habitat. And on top of this, victims of these tsunami catastrophes suffer from trauma and psychological problems aftermath. Meanwhile, Storm surge can also gave these effects but only less at casualties because of the early warning but without it, same casualties will probably occur.







Nirupama N. & Murty T.S. (n.d) Similarities and differences in Tsunami and Storm Surge Mitigation retreived from http://www.iiirr.ucalgary.ca/files/iiirr/A7-1_.pdf





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s