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Tsunamis & Sealife

May 25, 2011

A listener asks: What happens to the seafloor and to sealife when tsunamis hit?



Tsunamis and sealife…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most reports from the recent tsunami in Japan focused on the loss of human life and damage to nuclear power plants in the area. But listener Michael Saltzman of Silver Spring, Maryland wants to know what happens to the seafloor and sealife during a tsunami.

GARY McMURTRY (University of Hawaii):

Movement of the seafloor displaces the ocean water above it, and that’s what produces the tsunamis.


He says if there’s steep topography on the ocean floor, underwater landslides can be triggered.


Anything living in those areas is completely obliterated, buried. If there are fish that live near the ocean bottom, they would be in harm’s way, and also their food supply might be disrupted for a long time in that area.


He says it could take years for sealife in Japan to recover. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.