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Wave That Shook the World

Program Overview

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Coastline NOVA explores what happened and why when the December 26, 2004, tsunami developed off the Sumatran coast.

The program:

  • tracks the Indian Ocean tsunami as it progresses outward from its epicenter.

  • notes how Earth's continental plates can create earthquakes when they collide.

  • describes how the tsunami developed from an earthquake that occurred at a subduction zone off the Sumatran coast.

  • relates how the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii first registered the earthquake but, due to lack of any tsunami sensor networks in that region, was unable to know if a tsunami had formed.

  • recounts through descriptions and animations how the tsunami developed after the earthquake, how it traveled in the open ocean, and how it amplified as it neared the shoreline.

  • interviews survivors in several locations and shows the destruction caused by the waves.

  • details the influence of coastal morphology and seabed gradient on the tsunami's destruction.

  • relates how Pacific Tsunami Warning Center officials were eventually able to calculate the tsunami's travel time and alert East African embassies of its impending arrival.

  • recounts other Indonesian tsunamis and points out that some scientists had predicted catastrophic geological activity in that region.

  • considers the impact that no tsunami warning system or little tsunami education had on the outcome of the disaster.

  • reviews the four main causes of tsunamis—earthquakes, meteor impacts, volcanic or other explosive eruptions, and above-water and undersea landslides.

  • states that while, by some estimates, tsunamis pose a direct threat to about one-quarter of the world's population, protection against them remains a matter of cost and politics.

  • speculates what could happen if a major earthquake occurred at the Cascadia subduction zone off the Pacific Northwest coast or if the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands collapsed into the sea.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Wave That Shook the World
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