Making Waves

Making Waves Tonktiti
15 Apr
2017
An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives from the threat of tsunamis

An impending tsunami, an enormous surge powering its way across the ocean, is a fearsome prospect. Altogether, almost half a million people have been killed by tsunamis in the past two decades, including ones created by the 2011 ‘Great Tōhoku Earthquake’ off the coast of Japan in which more than 15,000 people lost their lives, and the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean earthquake, which killed 230,000 people.

Embracing the science of ‘acoustic-gravity waves’ (AGWs) – very long sound waves, which are naturally created by trigger events such as earthquakes – Usama Kadri, from the Cardiff University School of Mathematics, has studied how using underwater hydrophones to detect and read these AGWs could help give vital warnings of, and potentially even prevent, approaching tsunamis. ‘You can use acoustic-gravity waves to say that there is an upcoming tsunami,’ explains Kadri.

With the help of acoustic-gravity wave theory, you can now say where it started, the affected radius from the source, and the speed

Kadri’s research suggests that, since AGWs can travel up to ten times faster than a tsunami itself, warnings urging people to head to higher ground could, in future, be generated much sooner. Additionally, with the right transmission technology, it might even one day be possible to fire AGWs back at the approaching tsunami in a way that would reduce its destructive potential. ‘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 them,’ says Kadri, ‘potentially saving lives, as well as preventing billions of pounds worth of damage.’

However, he stresses that, unlike using hydrophones for detection, the technology to transmit AGWs remains a major obstacle, not least because of the vast complexities created by applying this theory to the real world, but also because of the immense energy which would be required (the 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami generated more than 1,500 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb).

This was published in the April 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Climate

A dramatic increase in dust storms across the western United…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of…

Wildlife

It’s not just the bees that are disappearing. Insects across…

Oceans

Far beneath the waves, a race is unfolding to claim…

Climate

Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya…

Geophoto

Who in their right mind wants to shoot with film…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Geophoto

Calling photographers passionate about capturing and sharing great images of…

Climate

Five experts weigh-in on the future of the Paris Agreement…

Oceans

Analysis into a killer whale found dead off the shores…

Geophoto

For the past ten years, the Chartered Institution of Water…

Geophoto

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, so it…

Oceans

Zafer Kizilkaya has been awarded the 2017 Whitley Gold Award…

Wildlife

John Kahekwa is the founder and general manager of the…

Polar

Recent observations of Arctic flora and fauna indicate major changes…

Oceans

A massive die-off of Australian mangrove forests is being attributed…

Energy

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Wildlife

The continuing adventures of Aaron Gekoski as he joins the…