Typhoon vs. Tsunami

History has shown us that no matter how far man progresses or how much he achieves in life, he will always be inferior to Nature.

While advances in science and technology have made it possible to foresee natural disasters in time to save lives, some events are nonetheless unstoppable and cause tremendous devastation.

Natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis are both on the list. Because both of these tragedies occur in water, it is typical for people to mix them up.

So, how can you distinguish between a tsunami and a typhoon? The main distinctions between a Tsunami and a Typhoon are the causes of their occurrence and their destructive potential. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic explosion. A typhoon, on the other hand, is caused by a weather phenomena similar to a hurricane. Tsunamis last for a shorter length of time than earthquakes, but they are more large and destructive.

We focused on the distinctions between a tsunami and a typhoon in this essay based on their development, speed, strength, and other factors.

At a glance: Tsunami vs. Typhoon

In the table below, we’ll look at the basic differences between a tsunami and a typhoon:

ShapeThe shape of the ocean wave before the occurrence of tsunami is X, Y, or two connected Ys.The shape of an intense circular storm over warm, tropical oceans.
Place of originWaterWater
Forms of PerceptionEarthquakeRain and low clouds overhead
Other CharacteristicsCovers a large expanse of land with waterCarries debrisLow air pressureCyclonic Rotation
Most affected areasIndonesia, The Pacific RimSouthern China, Indian Ocean
Lifespan10 min to 2 hoursA typhoon can last for 11 days
OccurrencesUsually, tsunamis occur twice every year.Usually, typhoons occur twenty times a year.

Let’s look at the distinctions between these two natural disasters now.

What is a Tsunami, exactly?

A tsunami, sometimes known as a “harbour wave,” is a series of waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water in a body of water, usually an ocean or a large lake.

Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other underwater occurrences can all create tsunamis (including detonations, landslides, glacier calving, meteorite impacts, and other disturbances).

Tsunamis come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Tsunamis are classified into three types based on their distance from their point of origin.

We’ll delve deeper into these categories in this section.

Tsunami in the area

The Local Tsunami, also known as a “Near-field Tsunami,” is one that originates within 100 kilometres of the place of impact.

A local tsunami takes less than an hour to reach the afflicted shoreline in terms of time.

Because the Local Tsunami occurs in such a short time, there is barely enough time to notify populations and evacuate the affected areas.

It leads to widespread devastation and a high rate of causality.

Tsunami in the Region

Regional tsunamis are less powerful than local tsunamis and originate within a 1000-kilometer radius of their source.

It takes about 1-3 hours for this Tsunami to reach the impacted coastline.

People have more time to prepare for the regional Tsunami than they do for a local tsunami because they have more time.

However, entirely evacuating their area is still insufficient, resulting in fewer casualties than the first.

Tsunami from afar

A Distant Tsunami, also known as a “Tele-tsunami” or a “Ocean-wide Tsunami,” takes more than 3 hours to reach the devastated coastline.

This Tsunami comes from a location more than 1000 kilometres away from the original source.

Although this type of Tsunami does not occur regularly, its consequences can be extremely dangerous. Because it travels across swaths of ocean basins, the initial assessment of this sort of Tsunami could be that of a local Tsunami.

Tsunamis from afar cover a bigger area of land, making them more devastating.

The period between cause and effect, on the other hand, is greater than 3 hours, giving individuals considerable time to flee the area.

Tsunamis: What Causes Them?

The Tsunami begins its creation far offshore. Tsunamis are most usually caused by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide within a big body of water.

A quick shift in movement causes water to be displaced on the seafloor. Even though the vertical movement is less than one metre, the volume of water displaced as a result can be enormous.

The waves spread out quickly in the deep water, travelling at more than 800 km/h and reaching a height of 30 centimetres, making it impossible to gauge.

The distance between successive tsunami wave crests might be up to 200 kilometres due to wind-driven waves.

The waves have a peak and a trough, and the trough might sometimes reach the shore before the crest. By producing a setback, the tide will travel hundreds of metres further than usual.

Before the crest hits the shore, this setback might persist up to 6 minutes.

What exactly is a typhoon?

A typhoon is a spiral-shaped storm that occurs in low air pressure areas between 180° and 100° east in the western half of the North Pacific Ocean.

Typhoons and hurricanes are not wholly different; all of these natural disasters are similar in nature, with differing sites of origin.

Typhoons form in the Western Pacific, hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific, while tropical cyclones form in the Indian Ocean’s southwest.

Low- to high-speed winds, as well as rain, can accompany these storms. Their severity ranges from one to five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with one being the least severe and five being the most severe.

What causes a typhoon to form?

A mature tropical cyclone is referred to as a typhoon. Tropical cyclones occur near the equator over warm ocean water.

When warm moist air rises upwards on the ocean, a cyclone forms. As the air rises up and away from the water, it creates low air pressure.

It enables air from higher-pressure places to flow towards the low-pressure area, warming it and driving it to ascend above it. As warm, wet air rises and cools, water in the air condenses, generating clouds.

Heat and water are evaporating from the ocean’s surface, and the entire system of clouds and wind is swirling and intensifying.

An eye forms in the middle of the wind system as it rotates quickly. The core of a cyclone is calm and clear, with little air pressure. The temperature difference between the warm, rising, and cooling environs causes the air to rise and become buoyant.

Every year, some 70 to 90 cyclonic systems form all around the planet. The Coriolis Effect causes the wind to loop around a low-pressure area.

Cyclonic systems do not occur in the equatorial strip between 5 degrees north and 5 degrees south latitudes because the presence of Coriolis force is negligible.

Appearance Differences

A tsunami is typically depicted as a rapidly rising or falling tide. Depending on the circumstances, a wall of water or a series of breaking waves may form.

Tsunami waves are not the same as ordinary ocean waves created by wind and storms. It’s because most tsunamis don’t “break” like surfers’ curling, wind-generated waves.

Wind-generated waves frequently have crest intervals of 5 to 15 seconds.

Tsunamis last anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes. Offshore, wind-generated waves break and lose energy as they shoal.

Tsunamis have the characteristics of a flood.

How does Typhoon appear?

The appearance of a typhoon

Based on cloud structure, a mature typhoon can be divided into three zones: the eye, the eyewall, and the spiral rain bands.

A typhoon’s “eye” is usually spherical and centred in the storm’s centre. Its diameter ranges from less than 10 kilometres to more than 200 kilometres, with the majority falling between 30 and 60 kilometres.

The breezes are gentle, and the weather is pleasant to the sight. The eye is surrounded by a “eyewall,” a roughly circular ring of thick clouds.

The amount of oxygen in the eye is diminishing. The eyewall, on the other hand, has very deep convection and is where the Typhoon’s surface winds and heavy rain are strongest.

Convection outside the eye forms long, thin rain bands that run nearly parallel to the surface wind direction.

Because they appear to spiral into the core of a tropical cyclone, these bands are frequently referred to as “spiral rain bands.”

Final comparison: Tsunami vs. Typhoon

A typhoon is a violent storm; a tsunami, on the other hand, is a gigantic wave. Typhoons can only form within 10 degrees north or south of the equator because they are formed by warm, low-pressure ocean water and the Coriolis effect (the force that comes from the rotation of the Earth).

A tsunami, on the other hand, can strike anywhere with a vast body of water, such as an ocean or a large lake.

Natural reasons, detonations, and human action can all cause them to form, causing a substantial amount of water to be displaced.

Both disasters have the potential to wreak havoc. A tsunami, on the other hand, is more difficult to forecast, so residents in potentially affected areas should keep an eye out and move to higher ground as soon as possible.

A suckling sound followed by receding water is a classic warning of an oncoming tsunami.

Typhoons can be predicted in the weather forecast because their swirling clouds can be seen from above.

Unlike a tsunami, which is usually judged after the damage has been done, the ferocity of a typhoon can be forecast.


Every natural disaster that strikes the planet has the potential to be devastating and lethal, resulting in the loss of life and property.

Typhoons and tsunamis cause destruction wherever they strike. A typhoon is a powerful and destructive storm that forms around a low-pressure area.

A tsunami is a large water wave that arises as a result of an ocean disturbance or an earthquake.

It takes a long time to recover from these natural disasters or tragedies.

Read more: Is Brass a Magnetic Metal?

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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