In the first of a series of newly released pictures showing a Japanese shoreline before and during the recent tsunami, a beach in Fukushima Prefecture appears calm.
The tsunami, captured here by a researcher working on the coast, struck northeastern Japan after a magnitude 9 earthquake, nearly wiping away entire towns.
A tsunami isn't a tidal wave but a series of waves—or wave train—in which the first isn't necessarily the most dangerous. Seen from on shore, a tsunami may be more like a rapidly rising tide than a series of giant breaking waves.
In the second picture in the sequence, the tsunami’s initial surge tosses a van (lower right) as waves approach the beach in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, on March 11.
A tsunami slows down when it reaches shallow water near the coast. The top of the wave moves faster than the bottom, causing the sea to rise dramatically—often accompanied by underwater turbulence—that can suck people under and toss heavy objects.
Photograph by Sadatsugu Tomisawa, AP
3. Beach Engulfed by Tsunami
On March 11 waves surge over treetops in the final photo of the tsunami-picture sequence captured by a researcher and released this week.
The danger from a tsunami can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave, and surge heights can vary dramatically from beach to beach.