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Kappen, Pelaez, Navarro p.

Stacie Kappen
Vanesa Pelaez
Javier Navarro
GSC 350-01
Professor Berry
2004 Earthquake and Tsunami
A tsunami is defined as catastrophic ocean wave, caused by a submarine earthquake,
coastal landslide, or the eruption of a volcano (Tsunami, 2011). Natural Disasters such as
earthquakes and tsunamis can have a great affect on the people living on or near the coast. On
December 26, 2004 at 7:59am local time Northern Sumatra, Indonesia saw the effects of how
devastating these two natural disasters can be. People along the Indian Ocean coast were
devastated when a magnitude nine earthquake, now called the Sumatra- Andaman earthquake
shook the region (Willams, 2005). This strong earthquake initiated a tsunami that destroyed
villages and the livelihoods of many. The important aspects of this disaster include whether the
earth gave warning prior to the disaster, exploring the important details of the earthquake and its
aftermath including its toll on the region and its people.
This region of the Indian Ocean is prone to Natural Disasters because the area sits along
an active convergent plate boundary. The convergent plate boundary of the Indian/ Australian
plate is subducting under the Eurasian plate at an average rate of 4.5 centimeters a year
(Ampuero et al., 2008). The Sunda trench zone however, sinks at 1.2 centimeters a year, which is
a slower pace than the rest of the Indian/ Australian plate (Ampuero et al., 2008; Pollitz, 2006).
Because this is a shallow subduction zone, the Indian/Australian plate causes significant strain on
the Sunda plate. When the stress of both compressing plates becomes too great, the energy is
released causing an earthquake uplifting the continental plate. This uplifting caused by the
earthquake displaces large amounts of water thus triggering a tsunami. The coastal areas of the

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Indian Ocean where the tsunami took place were mostly composed of soft sand material, which
only made the tsunami significantly more destructive.
The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake hypocenter was located sixty kilometers from the
coast of Northern Sumatra at a depth of ten kilometers (Singh, r. et al., 2007). This earthquake
was a magnitude nine that ruptured the seafloor for about eight hundred miles (Ampuero, 2008;
Pollitz, 2006). The initial earthquake was estimated that it released four hundred and seventyfive megatons of seismic energy, equivalent to twenty-three thousand Hiroshima-type atomic
bombs (National Geographic, 2005; Marshal, 2005). This earthquake is considered one of the
largest earthquakes to occur in the last forty years. The displacement of the earths crust caused
the plates to thrust upwards, approximately twenty meters, causing the water lying above to
move (Ampuero et al., 2008). Because this massive land movement forced at the displacement of
water, it created a tsunami that hit the coast of eighteen countries along the Indian Ocean
(Crossely, 2005). The tsunami waves traveled approximately three thousand miles (Marshal,
2005; National Geographic, 2005)
The Indian Ocean tsunami created massive devastation and destruction, killing at least
two hundred and seventy-five thousand across eighteen countries along the Indian Ocean
(Crossley, 2005; Pararas-Carayannis, 2005). Not only was property damaged, but also there was
an economic setback that hindered the availability to obtain food and water. The lack of food,
clean water, and medical treatment, combined with the enormous task faced by relief workers
trying to get supplies into remote areas became difficult since many of the roads were destroyed
by the tsunami. Long-term environmental damage was severe as well since villages, farmland,
and fishing grounds demolished or inundated by debris such as human carcasses, destroyed
houses and seawater (Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, 2011).

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The reason the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004 was so devastating is that
not only did it cause severe damage to the region itself, but also the millions of lives whom were
affected by this devastating natural disaster. To this day, the 2004 Sumatra earthquake remains
one the strongest and most violent of earthquakes in the last forty years. This tsunami has caused
great destruction for countries within the Indian Ocean. Tsunamis are not only caused by
earthquakes, but can also occur whenever there is a large enough displacement of water such as
landslides, volcano eruptions, asteroid impacts (Tsunami, 2011). Natural Disasters can occur
anywhere but are more prone to occur along plate boundaries.

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Works Cited
Ampuero, j. et al. (2008). Earthquakes and tsunamis in sumatra: what we have recently learned.
Informally published manuscript, Tectonics observatory, California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena, California. Retrieved from
Crossley, d. (2005). Ten 'worst' natural disasters. Informally published manuscript, Department
of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO. Retrieved from
Earthquake Spectra, Volume 22, No. S3, pages S435S473, June 2006; 2006, Earthquake
Engineering Research Institute
Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. (2011). In Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved from
Marshall, j. (2005). 2004 sumatra earthquake & indian ocean tsunami lecture note. Informally
published manuscript, Geological Sciences Department, California State Polytechnic
University, Pomona, Pomona, CA. Retrieved from
National Geographic. (2005, January 7). The deadliest tsunami in history. Retrieved from
Pararas-Carayannis, G. (2005). 2004 sumatra faq. Informally published manuscript, Department
of earth and space sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Retrieved from
Pollitz, F. (2006). Stress changes along the sunda trench following the 26 december 2004
sumatra-andaman and 28 march 2005 nias earthquakes. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH
LETTERS, 33. Retrieved from doi:
Singh, r. et al. (2007). Multi-sensor studies of the sumatra earthquake and tsunami of 26
December 2004. Manuscript submitted for publication, Atmospheric and oceanic science,
University of Maryland, college park, MD. Retrieved from Multi-sensor studies of the
Sumatra earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004
Tsunami (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from
Willams, m (Producer). (2005). Wave that shook the world [DVD]. Available from