A tsunami consists of a series of waves, which travel at high speed in the sea or a lake and cause major destruction along shorelines through the shoaling effect. The term tsunami is a Japanese word and stands for «harbor wave».
Tsunamis in Switzerland?
Although tsunamis mainly arise in Pacific coastal areas, in principle they can also occur in inland lakes. Although the consequences of tsunamis in such inland locations are less devastating than in coastal areas, they can also cause damage.
Tsunamis can be triggered in Switzerland by landslides that reach the surface of lakes or which occur above the surface of the water. For example, a very strong earthquake on 18 September 1601 caused a tsunami with metre-high waves on Lake Lucerne. When the water hit the shore, buildings were washed away and houses damage. When part of the mass from the major Goldau rockfall of 1806 reached Lake Lauerz, a tsunami arose which destroyed many buildings in the vicinity of the lake and the road and caused ten fatalities.
The main damage potential of a tsunami today arises from the concentration of assets along shores in many locations. Hence, a tsunami could also cause considerable damage on Swiss lakeshores today.