Surfing the Tsunami

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Shoaling gives tsunamis their height and their devastating impact. In the deep ocean, tsunami crests are usually much less than a metre above the sea level. Shoaling also causes ocean swells to grow in height near the shore, forming surf waves. A tsunami is caused by a massive disturbance to a large body of water. The disturbance has to be under the water or in the water. This means that sea-floor fault ruptures, underwater volcanic activity, landslides or earthquakes, explosions in the water or a large object such as a meteorite hitting the water can all cause tsunamis.

Unlike tsunamis, surf waves are formed by wind. As it blows across the ocean, the wind imparts energy to the water surface, forming waves ocean swells.

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As the wind continues blowing, small swells are whipped up into much larger waves. These waves or swells then interact with land the seabed as they near the coast and form the surf waves that we see at the beach. Tsunamis travel very fast. In deep water, they can move at several hundred kilometres per hour — about the speed of a passenger jet.


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Tsunamis have very long wavelengths over km. Ocean swells are about a thousand times shorter — they have wavelengths about m at the most, decreasing to 30—50 m at the coast when they become surf waves.

City of Palu smashed by giant wave after earthquake hits Sulawesi Island

Long waves involve large volumes of water, so when a tsunami hits land, the water keeps on coming as a torrent for several minutes — the period of the wave at the coast is 10—60 minutes. Compare this with surf waves, which dump a small amount of water on the beach over a few seconds and then recede the period of the surf is usually 5—15 seconds.

10 Biggest Waves Ever Recorded

Tsunami waves travel through the whole water column down to the sea floor, even to depths of thousands of metres. This is important for predicting the path of a tsunami because the topography of the bottom of the sea guides where the wave is going to travel.

Why did so many of them give up, or fail to adjust to the unfolding crisis? In this disaster, and apparently every other disaster, people are rendered incapable of making rational decisions. According to research, the people who survive are those realists who have imagined the worst and visualised their escape strategy.

Surfing the Healthcare Tsunami - Wikipedia

But no. The vast majority hung around to see what would happen, waiting for others to move first: tidying things into drawers, completing emails, changing their shoes. The thing is, they were sat in their little office in the 57th floor. They had no way of seeing the big picture.

Tsunami Devastates Coastal Indo Town

They had no idea about why they needed to act … and fast. In the digital age, the way we communicate with stakeholders, internally and externally, is core to success - not a nice to have. The key organisational challenge is that we are all looking after our own bit of the patch. We only see the world through our own particular lens. We have responsibilities for own brand, our unit, our own country.

Can You Surf a Tsunami Wave?

Every part of every organisation has its own cultures, its own languages, its own drivers. The natural state is to carry on doing things the way we have always done.. Grasping digital opportunities in a fragmented organisation of change-resistant people is hard. The culture shift necessary to fully exploit marketing technology platforms is not easy.

It needs sufficient resources, buy-in from the very top and a clear roadmap that all stakeholders can visualise. We need to be brave enough to zoom out, look at the big picture, visualise the road to success, and own the journey. And we need to bring every stakeholder with us along the track.


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    Tsunamis and surf have different origins

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