The Asian tsunami of 2004 was caused by tectonic activity beneath the Indian Ocean. A fault twenty miles below the ocean surface ruptured, forcing one of the plates to be thrust upwards by as much as 40 feet. The ocean above was forced upwards and the displaced water moved out as a series of giant ripples. From the land, the first sign of a tsunami is the water being dragged out to sea. The vertical wall of the tsunami destroyed everything in its path.
Students should create annotated diagrams showing tectonic movement leading to a tsunami. They can also model the behaviour of a tsunami or other wave as it enters shallower water, explaining why this brings about the cresting and then breaking of the wave. Considering the energy transfers taking place may help explain the destructive nature of a tsunami and could link to wave and energy topics in physics.