difference between hurricane and tsunami

In this article, you’ll learn about the difference between hurricane and tsunami right from their definition, formation, and their aftermath.

Tsunami and hurricanes are natural disasters that can cause widespread destruction within minutes.

The main difference between Hurricane and Tsunami is – A tsunami is caused by an event that displaces a large amount of water, often over a long distance, usually in a series of waves known as a tidal wave. While, Hurricanes are large and disruptive storms that form in the warm months of the year and are generally formed over warm oceanic bodies.

Major Distinctive Difference

Tsunamis and hurricanes differ in that hurricanes appear as large, destructive storms that generally occur in the warm months of the year over the warmer bodies of water.

Earthquakes or explosions can result in seismic waves that are strong enough to displace the ocean bottom and generate a tsunami. Tsunamis can occur at any time, all year round.

For example, on December 26th, 2004, over 230,000 people died due to a tsunami that hit the coastlines of fourteen countries in the Indian Ocean.

The tsunami reached heights of over 100 feet, destroying almost everything in its path. Hurricanes generally affect fewer localities.

Hurricane Vs. Tsunami: Causes

causes of Tsunami

Tsunamis and hurricanes have different causes. Tsunamis are triggered by underwater activity like volcanic explosions or landslides.

Hurricanes form over warm bodies of water, where they can gather monstrous winds before moving onshore.

Hurricanes are powerful storms that occur over the ocean. While hurricanes are more destructive than tsunamis, they last longer and are more predictable.

Hurricanes destroy a wider area than tsunamis, which appear to have more powerful forces.

Hurricane vs. Tsunami: Speed and Force

Hurricane-force winds can travel faster than 150 miles per hour, but they last only minutes.

Tsunami-force winds are slower, but they last for hours, which gives them enough time to cause enormous amounts of damage.

A tsunami is a killer wave that can rise to 100 feet (30 meters) high.

Note: Because tsunamis travel very quickly, the enormous amount of water carried by them can cause great devastation.

Hurricane vs. Tsunami: Differences in Occurrence

occurrences hurricanes

Many tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean because of its extensive coastline and proximity to seismic activity.

Experts estimate a roughly 80 percent chance of occurrence in the Pacific Ocean than anyplace else.

On the other hand, there is no specific region where hurricanes originate; they can occur in any part of the world. They are given different names in different parts of the world.

Hurricane Prone Areas

Recently hurricanes have been experienced in regions including the Caribbean islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the east coast of the United States.

Hurricanes generally develop on a body of water within the tropical cyclone belt, including most of the Atlantic Ocean, eastern and western Pacific Ocean, Australian region, and the Indian Ocean.

Fact: The name "hurricane" comes from an African word that means "evil spirit of the sea."

Equipment of Measure

Researchers measure hurricanes and tsunamis in a variety of ways.

Hurricanes are measured using buoys, satellites, weather stations, and other instruments to gauge temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure.

On the other hand, tsunamis are measured by seismic equipment, DART buoys, and bathymetry, along with models of the coastline to estimate the tsunami’s strength.

Understanding DART Buoys and Tsunamis

DART buoys mean Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis buoys.

They are floated in the ocean and enable instant, accurate tsunami forecasts through the use of seafloor sensors to log changes in seafloor temperature and pressure and then transmit the data via a surface buoy to a ground station by satellite.

DART Buoys are computer-enabled and can calculate what tsunami wave heights will be on coastlines that are at risk for tsunami waves and alert people who live on these coastlines to take action before it is too late.

Monitoring Agencies

National Hurricane Center monitor usa

For tsunami vs hurricane, it’s crucial to understand the government agencies that track them.

The National Hurricane Center monitors hurricanes, whereas The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center uses different equipment to make models of tsunamis.

Much of the information is often processed by experts who will then alert the public through media houses when extreme hurricanes or tsunamis are expected.

Such organized relay of information helps mitigate the effects of both and gives people time to prepare or vacate danger zones.

Note: There have been a lot of false positives in the past and hurricane, and tsunamis forecasts are not always 100 percent accurate.

Effects of Tsunami and Hurricane

tsunami hurricane effects

While a tsunami and hurricanes have no direct causal relationship, they share the characteristic of being destructive forces of nature.

Tsunami waves are different from other sea waves in that they can travel long distances and reach areas where other kinds of water waves cannot.

Tsunami waves, which sometimes measure hundreds of feet in height and overwhelm even large international hotels, can look like gentle swells when seen from a distance.

Fact: Tsunami waves, typically less than 10 feet high when they start in the ocean, can tower as high as a 30-story building by the time they hit land.

Predictability of Hurricanes and Unpredictability of Tsunamis

Hurricanes generally cause lots of damage, but they also last longer than most storms do.

The unpredictability of a tsunami makes it extremely dangerous in terms of potential harm.

Tsunamis are challenging to predict, so people affected by them often have no warning that the waves are coming.

Hurricanes usually take a few days to reach land. We can have plenty of time to get out of the way and find shelter by following the forecast we receive.

Photographs of tsunami waves taken from airplanes show the locks to be small in the open ocean but grow enormously as the waves approach land.

Destruction By Water

water surge in coastal areas

Tsunamis and hurricanes both bring water surges from the ocean to the coast.

But one of the significant difference between hurricane and tsunami is a wall of water traveling across the sea, with tidal waves that can reach 100 feet or higher as they travel from the ocean onto land.

On the other hand, a hurricane is a huge revolving storm system with strong winds blowing in every direction. And during a hurricane, water from the ocean surges toward the coast as the wind drives it.

Note: The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale rates hurricanes from 1 to 5 categories, with category 5 having the potential to cause more damage because of the stronger winds.

Damage to Coastal Populations

coastal population

People have always been fascinated with natural disasters like hurricanes.

The impacts of natural disasters—especially in terms of damage to areas and infrastructure—are, in many ways, the most notable aspect of these events.

Therefore, for a place to come under the effects of a natural disaster, the most critical aspect is that all the factors that cause destruction be present, especially for destruction on a colossal scale.

For example, Tourism, which had thrived along with coastal areas for decades, began to suffer the effects of tsunamis and hurricanes in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Urban areas, so heavily populated and developed, are more severely affected by natural disasters than less populated areas.

Disaster relief efforts come after natural disasters, helping people rebuild their homes and communities.

Read Next: Why are Some Earthquakes Stronger than Others?

Final Thought

Tsunamis and hurricanes are natural disasters observed primarily in humans’ coastal areas.

As humanity develops along the coast, people will be increasingly exposed to natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis.

While it’s easier to point out the difference between hurricane and tsunami, their destructiveness is a common denominator.

Worsened flooding from rising sea levels and more frequent storm surges are expected due to climate change.

As we face increasingly demanding natural disasters with a growing population and advanced civilization, it becomes increasingly challenging to handle hurricanes and tsunamis.