I don't know if this is a better fit for Earth Science (because of the tsunami part) or for Astronomy (because of the meteorite part).

The Wikipedia page on tsunamis says that tsunamis can be caused the the fall of a meteorite. The first reference after that claim mentions that tsunamis can be caused by meteorites, but in an unsubstantiated way. The second reference is behind a paywall so I can't access it.

How many recorded tsunamis have been caused by the fall of a meteorite?

  • $\begingroup$ The context for this question: I was giving a visit of the observatory, and somebody asked why we can't predict tsunamis yet given all the telescopes we have. My first answer was that most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. But I guess some tsunamis are caused by astronomical phenomena??? $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 15:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only one I'm aware of is the meteor that created the Chicxulub crater on the Yukutan Peninsular in Mexico that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ What makes a tsunami is the dimensionality of the trigger event of the wave, as seen from your standpoint. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Feb 14 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl What does "the dimensionality of the trigger event" mean? $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Commented Feb 28 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ Waves propagate on the surface, which are two dimensions. A punctual event (D=0) spreads into the area, an decays rapidly. A linear event (like a typical earthquake along a fault line, D=1) creates a wave that propagates along the second dimension. It does only decay because it get's turned in to heat. Which takes a long time, because water has very low viscosity. An impact has dimension zero for you, unless it's very large and / or you're pretty close. From across an ocean, only huge impacts are a tsunami danger. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Mar 1 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


None in historical times.

A tsunami is caused by a displacement of water, so for a meteorite to cause a measurable tsunami it would have to be very large. The largest known impactor in historic times, in Tunguska, was about 50m diameter could have created waves, but probably not a tsunami. There is evidence that a much larger impact, he Eltanin impact, 2.1 million years ago in the pacific ocean off Chile (a 1.5km diameter impactor) also did not create a tsunami. The waves generated were short wavelength turbulent waves and the energy was lost in friction. Tsunami need to be very long wavelength to cross oceans and cause damage remotely.

Much larger impacts would create tsunami, and the size of the tsunami may exceed that created by earthquakes. See my source Are ocean impacts a serious threat."


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