Difference Between a Tsunami and a Meteotsunami Wave Train

In the last couple of decades, Tsunamis have killed hundreds of thousands of people using a series of giant waves called “wave trains” that also happen in what’s called a Meteotsunami. They can last minutes or hours bringing death and destruction. What’s the Difference Between a Tsunami and A Meteotsunami Wave Train?  

Tsunamis waves are caused by earthquakes under the ocean while Meteotsunamis are created by fast-moving storms above the surface of the ocean & on the Great Lakes, both displace large amounts of water causing waves trains that can destroy coastlines and kill people but differ in size and speed.

Many people believe that tsunamis are single waves. They are not. Instead, tsunamis are “wave trains” consisting of multiple waves that come to shore at speeds of 500 mph.


What Are Tsunami Waves


A tsunami can strike in little time and without warning because they are suddenly caused by a large displacement of ocean water. They can be caused by Volcanic Eruptions, Landslides Meteorites, or the most common reason, Earthquakes. Over the last 240 years in the United States alone, there have been 24 Tsunamis alone recorded. In the deepest parts of the ocean, a Tsunami starts as small as 1-3 feet on the bottom and is hardly recognizable even to sailors floating on top of them.

Boxing Day Tsunami: A survivor's story - BBC News
Thailand Tsunami 2005

 Tsunami is a Japanese word that means “harbor wave” The front characters Tsu mean “Harbor” and the last “nami” means “wave” They have been recorded for centuries. Scientists believe that an Asteroid hit the Indian Ocean about 4800 years ago which created waves 600 ft. high.

Most Tsunamis about 80% happen in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” It’s an active area where Earthquakes and Volcanos are commonplace. They happen in other parts of the globe, such as the Indian Ocean but rarely.

The Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2005 was one of the most powerful recorded in decades killing up to 200,000 people. It’s considered the most powerful Tsunami in History. It was caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra according to the United States Geological Survey which monitors earthquakes worldwide.

A violent movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates displaced an enormous amount of water, sending powerful shock waves in every direction. Tectonic plates (Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large-scale motion of Earth’s lithosphere. This theoretical model builds on the concept of continental drift which was developed during the first few decades of the 20th century.)

It only took hours for the killer wave that developed in the epicenter to hit the coastline of 11 Indian Ocean countries. Killing people and demolishing property from Africa to Thailand. An Earthquake is known to always presides a Tsunami which causes the violent movement of the earth and a huge displacement of seawater.

A Tsunami is not made up of a single wave but rather a series of waves called “Wave Trains”. The first wave might not be the worst that the Tsunami has to offer. Tsunamis waves can be as much as 60 miles long and can be an hour apart. 

The Indian Tsunami Train Waves traveled about 3,000 miles to reach Africa’s coastline, killed many people, and destroyed millions of dollars of property.

Both normal ocean waves and tsunami waves can be described by their period (time between two waves), wavelength (horizontal distance between waves), amplitude (wave height), and speed. Normal ocean waves are caused by wind, weather, tides, and currents.

They are separated by periods of 5 to 20 seconds and lengths of 300 to 600 feet. they will travel up to 5 to 60 miles per hour. Tsunami Waves have 10 minutes to 2 hours and have wavelengths of up to 60-300 miles. Normal waves only involve the uppermost level of the surface of the ocean, whereas Tsunami Train Waves involve the whole water column from the surface to the sea’s bottom.

the waves push against the shallower sea bottom slow up and rise in height some extremely high. In India, Tsunami Train Waves grew to over 30 feet tall and covered the island for thousands of feet. Many people there said the Tsunami made a horrible “freight train sound”

The first wave in the series of a train that is brought on by the Tsunami may not be the worst. The series could come 5 minutes apart or 1 hour apart. People have been killed trying to return home thinking the waves were done only to have one more of these train waves come in.  Survivors say that the Train Waves move as fast and hard going back out as it does coming in. Many people get killed by the retrieving wave or by a surprising second or third wave. 

A Tsunami wave may be small at one point on the beach and huge a short distance away. Tsunami waves travel up rivers too. People need to stay away from rivers and streams during a Tsunami that leads to the ocean. Always keep 72 hours worth of medical supplies and food and water supplies in case of an emergency.

Where Do Tsunamis Occur In the United States


 According to the NOAA, the places in the US that are at risk from Tsunamis are Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. Because a Tsunami can travel great distances, damage from a Wave Train can be done on other continents and thousands of miles away.

Scientist predicts that the next Tsunami will come from an earthquake off the Canary Islands and will cause damage to coastal cities in the United States like Boston and New York.

In the United States, the threat posed by tsunamis is greatest along the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, but tsunamis are also possible on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

In 2001, recognizing these threats and the vital role played by coastal communities in protecting the nation from tsunamis, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP–a partnership led by NOAA that today includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and 28 U.S. states and territories) established the TsunamiReady program to encourage and recognize community tsunami preparedness. Creating the NOAA US Tsunami Warning System By:

  • Detecting Tsunamis populations at risk became a worldwide effort by the NOAA National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration after the Tsunami happened in Sumatra in 2004. The NOAA stepped up its efforts by:
  • Developing tsunami models for at-risk communities
  • Staffing NOAA warning centers around the clock
  • Expanding the warning coverage area to many parts of the world
  • Deploying Deep-ocean Assessment and
  • Report of Tsunamis (DART) buoy stations Installing sea-level gauges
  • Offering expanded community education through the Tsunami Ready program

The United States took charge of gathering worldwide information and training people to help speed up alarming coastal regions in the event of a Tsunami using what they call DARTS.

The DART program is a real-time monitoring system that provides data for forecasting tsunamis using a buoy and sensors on the ocean floor that measures the height of the water’s surface above the seafloor, water pressure, and Seismic activity and sends an alert if it detects possible tsunami-like activity.

These monitors are located all over the world mainly in places where a Tsunami may hit. There is DART on the East Coast not far in the ocean off Atlantic City. Not long ago a rare Tsunami was reported to hit the East Coast of the USA, on the 13th of June 2013, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Paul Whitmore, director of the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research,

Even in Superstorm Sandy where I lost my home, the weather system which moved through the Jersey shore might have changed the air pressure enough to “generate waves that act like tsunamis.” Back then they could not explain it. It was another unexplainable type of strange weather system blamed on Global Warming and Rising Sea Levels that were the result of them.



 What is a Meteotsunami Train Waves


Despite the clear skies and calm weather over the coast of New Jersey, Tsunami type waves crash on the beaches of NJ and Massachusetts. In Barnegat NJ, 3 people were injured when a 6-foot wave threw them off a fishing jetty and into the water. A meteotsunami generated by a 15-minute storm caused the deaths of seven people at Lake Michigan in 2003, the Sea Grant Institute at the University of Wisconsin reported.

The meteotsunami generated rip currents that pulled people away from the shore and put them in a situation that increased their risk of drowning. After the storm passed, the weather became agreeable and sunny. This led people to mistakenly believe it was safe to swim, so they went back into the water.

The wave’s heights were captured by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coastal water-level stations from Puerto Rico to New England as well as a Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoy 150 miles offshore. Due to the wave’s coincidence with a severe weather pattern and the lack of a detected earthquake or landslide, scientists deemed the event a “meteotsunami.”

A meteotsunami has characteristics similar to earthquake-generated tsunamis, but they are caused by air-pressure disturbances often associated with fast-moving weather systems, such as squall lines. These disturbances can generate waves in the ocean that travel at the same speed as the overhead weather system.

A meteotsunami occurs when convective storms moving quickly above water cause a rapid change in air pressure which displaces the water, according to the National Ocean Service. This process generates waves that can cause damage to coastal areas and put people at risk of serious harm or, in some cases, death.


Like an Earthquake generated Tsunami the Meteotsuanmi affects the entire water column meaning from the surface of the ocean to the bottom just like a Tsunami wave and when its waves hit shallow water they rise in height and intensity just like a Tsunami Wave Train series does in a Tsunami.

Recent studies have shown that Meteotsusami is more common than a Tsunami and can happen more than we thought. They have happened from Daytona Beach Florida to Maine and researchers have shown that certain parts of the world are more prone to this strange phenomenon than others. Areas in the Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and a few of Japan’s gulfs and bays are prone due to variables like geography and weather patterns. It could be attributed to Global Warming.

Meteotsunami waves act like “train waves” in series and can last minutes or hours just as in a Tsunami. The good news is the same detection system we put in place for tsunamis can be used for a warning system that will do the same for new extreme events like Meteotsunami waves which act the same.

Despite their risk worldwide and numerous occurrence forecasting them has been hard to do because this phenomenon is not caused by earthquakes which are pre-requisite to a Tsunami. But because of the observation systems and DARTS that were put in place, in the last years, researchers feel that it’s just a matter of time when they are added to NOAA’s list of warning systems and the information on them becomes available worldwide.

All these extreme types of weather systems can be the result of Global Warming and Rising Sea Levels and creating strange new weather events that scientists have only started to examine. Their fear is that this could be a normal pattern of things to come.


For more great articles like this one on Seasteading and all things water stay right here on MyWaterEarth&Sky-If, you use the concepts of Homesteading and take them one step further to where there is no country, government, or even a continent to call home, these are the ……………… Continue reading


JimGalloway Author/Editor 


Tsunamis: Facts About Killer Waves



Recent Posts