Hurricanes are some of the most powerful and extreme weather events that happen on planet earth, but can a hurricane cause a tsunami?
In a nutshell, no they cannot. Tsunamis are typically caused by underwater events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or other seismic activities.
Contrary to what some people believe, the rise in sea level that hurricanes bring on are not tsunamis and is in fact something entirely different.
There is much more to learn on this topic, so stick around to learn more.
Can A Hurricane Actually Cause A Tsunami?
A hurricane can not cause a tsunami because a tsunami is created from underwater seismic activity on converging tectonic plate boundaries.
Tsunamis are HUGE waves that travel along as fast as jets (500mph), and they are usually caused by activities such as earthquakes.
That said, tsunamis can be created by other means such as nuclear explosions or asteroids/meteors exploding above the surface of the ocean.
Although a hurricane cannot form a tsunami, they do create storm surges from their incredibly fast winds on top of the water.
What Is A Storm Surge?
A storm surge, as defined by the Met Office is a change in sea level that is caused by a storm.
Storm surges are responsible for many flash floods that happen when a hurricane is passing through. The rise in sea level can break the banks of coastlines and cause extreme floods to local areas.
These surges can be brought on by hurricanes, they break down sea defenses and smash coastlines, causing extensive floods for sometimes miles inland.
When combined with the heavy rainfall of a hurricane, floods can become quite severe and really impact communities in the area.
Although many meteorologists define a storm surge as a “wall of water“, which is another word people like to use for a tsunami when you compare how the two impact coastlines, they are very different from one another.
How Is A Storm Surge Different From A Tsunami?
The main difference between a storm surge and a tsunami is the sheer scale of the events and the aftermath.
Tsunamis happen much less frequently than storm surges and are created when a body of water, such as the ocean is displaced over a massive area very quickly.
They usually occur just after an earthquake or landslide, as these are typically large shifts in the outer layers of the earth that displace a large area of the ocean.
The aftermath of a tsunami is almost always devastating, with many lives lost and many homes and businesses lost.
A storm surge happens much more frequently and occurs when swells and local winds penetrate inland further than under normal conditions.
Storm surges happen all over the world, they are a temporary elevation of sea level that is usually associated with low-pressure weather systems.
A storm surge also doesn’t have a wave, it’s a rise in sea level that can overflow into coastlines, whereas a tsunami is a gigantic series of waves.
Tsunamis are often quite literally walls of water that attack shorelines for hours, with waves coming between 5 and 60 minutes.
The aftermath of a storm surge is typically localized flooding, and although it can seriously impact local areas, it’s not to the extent of a tsunami.
Tsunamis are the stuff of nightmares, they are terrifying events that can cause ruin to coastlines and up to 10 miles inland.
Why Can’t A Hurricane Cause A Tsunami?
One reason a hurricane cannot cause a tsunami is that a hurricane is very much an event that is above land and sea level.
The strong winds, rainfall, and destruction that come with a hurricane are all above sea level, therefore the winds don’t have the ability to create such a large event like a tsunami.
Whereas a tsunami typically comes from an earthquake or landslide that happens in the outer layers of the earth.
This means that they are created from underneath the ocean, and that shift creates a series of waves that can be up to 100 feet tall.
As a hurricane is essentially a vortex that is created through wind above the surface, it is unable to have such a significant impact on the ocean and the size of particular waves.
So, can a hurricane cause a tsunami? No, they cannot.
Although it can cause a storm surge, it is not as deadly as a tsunami. Storm surges are the rising of sea levels and not a barrage of gigantic waves.
Hurricanes are incredibly destructive events, but I am glad that they also cannot produce tsunamis as the impact of this on towns and villages would be immense.
The damage hurricanes and storm surges do already is massive, with it often taking months and sometimes years for communities to rebuild.
Hopefully, this post has given you an insight into hurricanes and storm surges and clarified why hurricanes cannot create tsunamis.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have enjoyed it, feel free to stick around and learn more about extreme weather events and natural phenomena.
Hey, I’m Sam – the founder of GustyPlanet. I’ve had a fascination with all things weather for as long as I can remember. I witnessed my first tornado at the age of 6, and since then became an avid storm chaser that is hooked on learning as much as I can about extreme weather. This blog was created to share my knowledge and to expand and delve deeper into the wonderful world of weather phenomena. I hope you enjoy your stay here and thanks for visiting.