What does this but mean in this sentence? I doesn't quite seem like it's contrasting anything here.

The news was shocking, but most people realized that they knew little about what a tsunami was, and what caused one of nature's deadliest disaster.

Source: This is from an article that I've been using in class
What Causes a Tsunami; SEED (2007) The Earth - a living planet

  • So what? In conversational English, people throw buts in in every single sentence they say. – Michael Rybkin Dec 6 '17 at 5:37
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    @CookieMonster 'but' why? – Varun Nair Dec 6 '17 at 5:38

We can assume that the people, mentioned in your context, knew very less about how deadly a tsunami can be. On reading/ watching/ listening to the news, they understood that their knowledge about a monster wave is very limited. Now, they know how powerful a tsunami can be and what an impact it can create on all things, living and non-living.

The news, although terrifying, gave people a realization that they knew very little about tsunamis. The outcome was definitely bad and disastrous, but the 'people' had their eyes open to the fact they didn't know much about what a tsunami was, or how it is perhaps, on of the deadliest force of nature.

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It's hard to say without more context. Varun may be correct that the "but" implies that there was at least one good outcome from a horrible event.

Another possible implication is that the news was shocking, but the only reason people were shocked was because they were ignorant.

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