The effects of tsunami could one day be less than devastating.

Tsunami Dissipating Research by Cardiff University Mathematician

By Bethany Rudge

Through dissipating a waves energy over a wide area, the devastating effects of tsunamis would be minimised and lives saved.

Dr Usama Kadri, from Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics, has published new calculations in the open access journal Heliyon demonstrating the possibility of halting tsunamis before hitting the Earth’s shoreline.

This new research suggests that thousands of lives worldwide could ultimately be saved by using acoustic-gravity waves (AGWs) against tsunamis that are triggered by earthquakes, landslides and other violent environmental happenings.

AGWs are naturally occurring sounds waves that move through the deep ocean at the speed of sound, Dr Kadri suggests that controlling these waves could give us a way of reducing a tsunami’s momentum and thus consequential damage.

AGWs can measure tens or even hundreds of kilometres in length and can travel thousands of metres below the surface. Dr Kadri proposes if we can find a way to engineer these waves, they can be fired at an incoming tsunami and will react with the wave in such a way that reduces its amplitude, or height, and causes its energy to be dissipated over a large area. Therefore, by the time the tsunami reaches the shoreline, the reduced height and impact of the tsunami would considerably reduce the devastating damage that tsunamis have been known to cause to both civilians and the environment.

Dr Kadri also suggests that this process of firing AGWs at a tsunami could be repeated continuously until the wave’s power and momentum is entirely dispersed entirely.

“Within the last two decades, tsunamis have been responsible for the loss of half a million lives, widespread long-lasting destruction, profound environmental effects and global financial crisis,” Dr Kadri said.

The devastating tsunami that was generated in the Indian Ocean in 2004 has been recorded as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recent history after it caused over 230,000 deaths in 14 countries.

However, Dr Kadri says that “up until now little attention has been given to discovering solutions to mitigate tsunamis, and the potential of acoustic-gravity waves has been largely neglected and unexplored in academic research”. This makes his potentially life-saving research one of the first of its kind.

In order to successfully use AGWs in tsunami mitigation, Dr Kadri concedes that engineers will firstly need to devise highly accurate AGW frequency transmitters or modulators, which would impose various technical challenges as well as huge cost implications.

Dr Kadri continued: “In practice, generating the appropriate acoustic-gravity waves introduces serious challenges due to the high energy required for an effective interaction with a tsunami…”

“But, this study has provided proof-of-concept that devastating tsunamis could be mitigated by using acoustic-gravity waves to redistribute the huge amounts of energy stored within the wave, potentially saving lives and billions of pounds worth of damage.”

However, at present, this is still just a smart theory, and is yet to be tested in the real world. The next step would be a proof-of-concept experiment, which could be carried out on a small scale with a wave tank at a specialist research facility.