Tsunamis (translated from Japanese as “harbour wave”) are generated by the displacement of a large volume of water. They are with periods in the order of minutes to hours much longer than normal water waves generated by wind. Tsunamis can have a devastating (global) impact such as in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami which resulted in 230,000 people killed in 14 countries, or the more recent 2011 Tōhoku tsunamis in Japan.
Tsunamis may be categorised according their generation mechanism into:
- seismic tsunamis (generated by tectonic activities)
- tsunamis caused by underwater explosions
- meteotsunamis (generated by rapid changes in barometric pressures)
- landslide-tsunamis (generated by subaerial or underwater landslides)
- ice-tsunamis (generated by ice calving)
The UK was affected by at least two major tsunamis namely the Storegga underwater slide off the coast of Norway affecting Scotland in 6100 BC and a seismic tsunami from the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Potential future tsunamis endangering the UK may be caused by a subaerial slide at La Palma on the Canary Islands and by an afresh earthquake at the fault off the coast of Portugal. Dr Heller’s group mainly focuses on landslide- and ice-tsunamis in the generation and propagation phases as well as the interaction of tsunamis with the shoreline and structures.