A tsunami is a series of ocean waves that sends surges of water, sometimes reaching heights of over 100 feet (30.5 meters), onto land. These walls of water can cause widespread destruction when they crash ashore.
These awe-inspiring waves are typically caused by large, undersea earthquakes at tectonic plate boundaries. When the ocean floor at a plate boundary rises or falls suddenly it displaces the water above it and launches the rolling waves that will become a tsunami.
Tsunamis cause damage by two mechanisms: the smashing force of a wall of water travelling at high speed, and the destructive power of a large volume of water draining off the land and carrying all with it, even if the wave did not look large.
When the wave enters shallow water, it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases.
The wave further slows and amplifies as it hits land. Only the largest waves crest.