Tsunamis are giant waves caused by underwater earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. When a tsunami is triggered by such an event, the wave can move at great speeds underwater but result in a very small wave. However, as the tsunami approaches shore, the wave slows down but increases in height. The highest tsunami recorded reached 278 feet in height. Tsunamis have negative ecological, health, economic and psychological impacts on populations effected by tsunamis.
Ecological Consequences of Tsunamis
Tsunamis can result in negative ecological impacts on coastal areas. The force of the tsunami wave can cause major damage or removal of coral reef systems, which are critical to marine life and local economies. Sandy beaches can also sustain serious damage, negatively effecting people and animals. For example, tsunamis often destroy sea turtle nesting sites. Coconut trees, important to many coastal economies, can be damaged or destroyed.
Health Consequences of Tsunamis
Tsunamis can cause negative health effects on populations hit by a tsunami. Man-made systems that provide clean drinking water, food and medical care can by damaged or destroyed. After a tsunami, large amounts of stagnant water can promote the growth of insect populations, increasing the threat of insect-borne illnesses. People in charge of handling decaying bodies face increased health risks.
Economic Impact of Tsunamis
Tsunamis often devastate local economies. Coastal areas that rely on tourism often experience a disruption or suspension of tourists visiting the area, resulting in economic hardship for those employed in the industry. Distribution chains can be negatively impacted as a result of damaged infrastructure or debris blocking supply routes. For example, local businesses may not be able to supply the urgent needs of local consumers, resulting in loss of revenue for businesses and greater hardship for local populations.
Psychological Impact of Tsunamis
Tsunamis can have short and long-term negative impacts on the psychological well-being of populations effected by a tsunamis. Tsunamis can cause mass casualties and destruction of property. Individuals can experience psychological trauma witnessing such an event. Individuals and families may suffer the loss of one or several family members. Children and adolescents are more vulnerable if their primary caretakers are severely injured or lost during a tsunami.
- The Economist Intelligence Unit; Asia's Tsunami: The Impact; January 2005
- UN Atlas of the Oceans: Impact of Tsunamis of Ecosystems
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Effects of Tsunamis
- Michigan State University Institute of International Health; Community and Public Health Effects of Tsunamis; Prof. Reza Nassiri
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: What is a Tsunami?
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Importance of Coral Reefs
Matthew Ferraton graduated with a Master of Arts in history from Cleveland State University in December, 2008. During his graduate studies, Ferraton published local histories for the Euclid Corridor Oral History Project. He has been freelance writing for the Web since 2009.