Difference between Tsunami and Tidal Wave

The moment an earthquake occurs near the coast or on one coast near another, the risk of a tsunami or tidal wave begins to be discussed, these being terms that are commonly used as synonyms.

tidal waves

It comes from the Latin mare, sea and motus movement, it is a marine movement, a wave or series of waves that occur due to the thrust of a large mass of water that is displaced by a vertical force. The term tidal wave was established in a congress in 1963. These phenomena are generated when a vertical type disturbance, either upwards or downwards, causes the water to withdraw from the coast.

In the place of the disturbance a rose is formed that will move again towards the coast, when finding low depths the rose takes great heights generating great waves. The disturbances that can generate tidal waves are volcanoes, meteorites, landslides on the coasts or on the seabed, and large-scale explosions. In a tidal wave it can happen after about 10 or 20 minutes of the riot.

Any ocean can present a tidal wave, although there are more in the Pacific Ocean due to the presence of subduction faults such as the one between the Nazca and South American plates. These types of faults cause powerful earthquakes.


A tsunami, from the Japanese TSU: port or bay, NAMI: is a gigantic wave or set of high-altitude waves generated by a vertical disturbance of various kinds that has occurred in the sea. 90% of tsunamis are produced by earthquakes, which is why they are called tectonic tidal waves. Previously, tsunamis were called waves generated by hurricanes and storms, which also entered inland on the coast.

Differences between tsunamis and tidal waves

  • A tidal wave is an earthquake whose epicenter is at the bottom of the sea.
  • A tsunami is a gigantic wave generated by a tidal wave or other type of upheaval.

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