Tsunami, considered.

Via putz, some before and after satellite images of the tsunami hitting the coast of Sri Lanka. What is perhaps most terrifying is how far the ocean recedes before the wave hits. Word to the wise: if you’re ever on vacation and the tide goes out really fast, get the heck out of Dodge. (Though I suppose at that point you’re probably toast unless you have a helicopter waiting to take you away.)
So how fast does a tsunami travel, you ask? According to the Wikipedia entry on tsunamis, “a tsunami in the open ocean can obtain a speed of about 700 km/h.” The entry is worth reading — it’s very informative, and has a lot of specific information about the most recent tsunami.
One point I found of particular note: according to Wikipedia, “Unlike the Pacific Ocean, there is no organised alert service covering the Indian Ocean. This is in part due to the absence of major tsunami events since 1883 and an emphasis on developing a tropical cyclone warning system.” Just another interesting example of how decisions about the direction of scientific research and technological implementation can have, well, unanticipated effects. I suppose it all comes down to the perception of risk: efforts are more likely to be concentrated on addressing risks which are held to be most imminent. In the case of this recent tsunami, pretty much nobody knew what hit ’em.

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