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This is a set of interactive articles on tsunamis developed to accompany the Savage Earth television series on PBS.  The three articles explain the anatomy of a tsunami and how it differs from typical wind-generated water waves.  Animations and illustrations help users understand how these waves are generated and why they can be so destructive upon reaching a shoreline.  A history of tsunami events is woven throughout the articles, including a video interview with a tsunami survivor.  This resource is appropriate for middle school and high school learners.

SEE RELATED ITEMS ON THIS PAGE for a link to the full collection of materials developed by WNET-TV to accompany Savage Earth.

Please note that this resource requires Quicktime.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Compound Waves
= Transfer of Energy in Waves
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Limited free access
Web-based resources are free; broadcast programming is available for purchase.
© 1999 WNET-TV, NY, NY 10001
animation, subduction, tsunami, tsunami animation, tutorial, wave energy, wave generation, wave motion, wave propagation, waves
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created March 7, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 10, 2020 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 19, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4C. Processes that Shape the Earth
  • 6-8: 4C/M2a. Some changes in the earth's surface are abrupt (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions) while other changes happen very slowly (such as uplift and wearing down of mountains).
  • 6-8: 4C/M12. The earth's plates sit on a dense, hot, somewhat melted layer of the earth. The plates move very slowly, pressing against one another in some places and pulling apart in other places, sometimes scraping alongside each other as they do. Mountains form as two continental plates, or an ocean plate and a continental plate, press together.
  • 6-8: 4C/M13. There are worldwide patterns to major geological events (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building) that coincide with plate boundaries.
  • 9-12: 4C/H5. Earthquakes often occur along the boundaries between colliding plates, and molten rock from below creates pressure that is released by volcanic eruptions, helping to build up mountains. Under the ocean basins, molten rock may well up between separating plates to create new ocean floor. Volcanic activity along the ocean floor may form undersea mountains, which can thrust above the ocean's surface to become islands.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.6 Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, defining the question the author seeks to address.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11—CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Types of Mechanical Waves

A great resource to augment a module on tsunamis.  These are interactive "magazine-style" articles designed to help students understand how tsunamis are generated and why they become so destructive upon reaching shore.  Don't miss the excellent animated view of a tsunami caused by subduction zone earthquake.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Types of Mechanical Waves

Exactly what is a tsunami and how does it differ from a regular water wave?  Why is it so destructive to a shoreline when it looks harmless at sea?  This excellent resource from WNET-TV in New York features a magazine-style set of three articles on tsunamis, explaining what causes them and how they travel.  Don't miss the animation of a subduction-zone earthquake (a frequent cause of tsunami) and the interview with a survivor.

Links to Units:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WNET, New York, 1999), WWW Document, (https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html).
Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis (WNET, New York, 1999), <https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html>.
APA Format
Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis. (2008, March 19). Retrieved May 22, 2024, from WNET: https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html
Chicago Format
WNET. Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis. New York: WNET, March 19, 2008. https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html (accessed 22 May 2024).
MLA Format
Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis. New York: WNET, 1999. 19 Mar. 2008. 22 May 2024 <https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis}, Publisher = {WNET}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {22 May 2024}, Month = {March 19, 2008}, Year = {1999} }
Refer Export Format

%T Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis %D March 19, 2008 %I WNET %C New York %U https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 19, 2008 %T Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis %I WNET %V 2024 %N 22 May 2024 %8 March 19, 2008 %9 text/html %U https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/savageearth/tsunami/index.html

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Waves of Destruction: Tsunamis:

Accompanies http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageearth/index.html

This is a link to the web site for the Savage Earth online materials.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Michigan State Applet Collection: Tsunami Simulator

A simple simulation that very clearly depicts how a tsunami, which starts out as a fairly insignificant pulse in the ocean, can gain amplitude over distance and become so destructive upon reaching a shoreline.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is a Student Extra Of Physics Classroom: What is a Wave?

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