Megatsunamis: World's Biggest Wave | Summary and Q&A

April 30, 2020
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Megatsunamis: World's Biggest Wave


Tsunamis caused by landslides, known as megatsunamis, are rare but incredibly destructive events that could become more common due to climate change.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What causes a megatsunami?

Megatsunamis are caused by massive landslides, such as those triggered by earthquakes or volcanic activity, which displace a significant amount of material into a body of water. This displacement creates a wave that can reach extraordinary heights.

Q: How does a megatsunami compare to a regular tsunami?

Megatsunamis are larger in scale and more destructive than regular tsunamis. While regular tsunamis can travel thousands of kilometers and retain their destructive force, megatsunamis tend to have a stronger local impact but dissipate more quickly.

Q: How rare are megatsunamis?

Megatsunamis are rare events, with only a few recorded instances in history. They are not commonly observed due to the unique conditions required for their formation.

Q: How is climate change linked to the potential increase in megatsunamis?

Climate change is causing the melting of permafrost in regions like Greenland and Alaska. As the permafrost thaws, the stability of the ground is compromised, making landslides more likely. These landslides, in turn, could lead to more frequent occurrences of megatsunamis.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • On June 17, 2017, Nuugaatsiaq, a remote fishing village in Greenland, was hit by a megatsunami, a one hundred meter wave caused by a huge landslide.

  • Megatsunamis are distinguished from ordinary tsunamis by their formation, which requires a massive amount of material plunging into a body of water.

  • Historically, there have been very few recorded megatsunamis, but evidence suggests that they have occurred in the distant past, with some waves reaching heights over 500 meters.

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