Taming the Tsunami: Investigating Different Structures to Reduce Tsunami Damage *
|Areas of Science||
|Time Required||Average (6-10 days)|
|Material Availability||Readily available|
|Cost||Average ($50 - $100)|
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.
Figure 1. Tsunami wall at Tsu, Japan. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user ChrisO, 2005.)
Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies
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Last edit date: 2017-11-06
- Dalrymple, R. and Kriebel, D. (2005, June). Lessons in Engineering from the Tsunami in Thailand. National Academy of Engineering Publications. Vol. 35, No. 2. Retrieved February 9, 2010, from http://www.nae.edu/Publications/TheBridge/Archives/V35-2SystemsChallengesonaGlobalScale/LessonsinEngineeringfromtheTsunamiinThailand.aspx
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What was the most important thing you learned?
We learned that we were not prepared to undertake a project that had no procedures. We learned that failure is an option. Good lesson to learn.
What problems did you encounter?
Creating a consistent wave is difficult without a mechanical device. We did not have sufficient resources to build an ocean large enough (in length) to allow the wave to develop. We spent hours attempting to create a consistent wave. I hope the next student who tries this can succeed.
Can you suggest any improvements or ideas?
Before proceeding with this project, you must determine 1. how to create a consistent wave 2. what are you going to measure, and how are you going to measure it 3. is there room to do all of this in the space you have allotted for your "ocean"
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Compared to a typical science class, please tell us how much you learned doing this project.
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