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Taming the Tsunami: Investigating Different Structures to Reduce Tsunami Damage *

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety No issues
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.2 megathrust earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia unleashed a powerful tsunami that hit the coasts of 14 countries and caused the loss of over 200,000 lives. The devastation that the tsunami left in its wake was heartbreaking, and people across the world united to help the survivors.

Tsunamis are a powerful force of nature that can change the features of a coastline and result in millions of dollars in economic loss, but can anything be done to mitigate the damage that a tsunami can wreak? Can manmade structures reduce the energy of incoming tsunami waves? In this ocean science project, you will model a tsunami and then come up with novel structures that can potentially reduce the effect of incoming tsunami waves. Take a look at the Science Buddies project The Science Behind Tsunamis, to get ideas on how to create a wave tank for testing. Would a sea wall, like the one shown in Figure 1, below, help? How thick and high would it have to be? Would any manmade structure in the water reduce the strength of a tsunami wave? Try to keep your structure as true-to-life as possible and keep it as cost-effective as possible. For example, engineers could build a wall around a tsunami-prone area that is 100 feet high and 100 feet thick, but that would be cost prohibitive, and people living on the coast might protest because their view of the ocean would be ruined. Watch this video for some ideas to get started:

Ocean Science fair project <B>Figure 1.</B> Tsunami wall at Tsu, Japan (Image Courtesy of ChrisO Wikimedia Commons, 2005)

Figure 1. Tsunami wall at Tsu, Japan. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user ChrisO, 2005.)


Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Taming the Tsunami: Investigating Different Structures to Reduce Tsunami Damage" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/OceanSci_p016.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 23). Taming the Tsunami: Investigating Different Structures to Reduce Tsunami Damage. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/OceanSci_p016.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-23


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