Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Wave Experiment Reveals Poorly Understood Behavior Of Tsunamis

Date:
October 17, 2007
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
With the goal of saving lives and preventing environmental and structural damage during real tsunamis, Princeton Engineering researchers have been creating experimental mini-tsunamis. Existing models for predicting the impact of tsunamis focus on the incoming rush of water while largely ignoring the effect of the powerful forces that a tsunami wave can exert on the earth beneath when it draws back into the ocean.

Just out of the tsunami wave test basin and still wearing their wading boots are Heng Xiao (left) and Ting Tan (right), both Princeton graduate students in civil and environmental engineering who spent their summer in Oregon doing tsunami research. Adedotun Moronkeji (center) from the University of Missouri-Rolla assisted in the research as part of the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program.
Credit: Image courtesy of Princeton University

With the goal of saving lives and preventing environmental and structural damage during real tsunamis, Princeton Engineering researchers created experimental mini-tsunamis in Oregon this summer.

Existing models for predicting the impact of tsunamis focus on the incoming rush of water while largely ignoring the effect of the powerful forces that a tsunami wave can exert on the earth beneath when it draws back into the ocean.

“This was the first experiment of this kind and it will allow us to develop a realistic model to show us what really happens to the sand during a tsunami,” said Yin Lu “Julie” Young, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Young said that knowing how to construct buildings that stay in place during a tsunami would be especially crucial to survival in certain locations, such as the Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

“This is absolutely necessary in a place like Waikiki because in the event of a tsunami there is no place to run,” she said. “It is too populated and the near-shore bathymetry [the topography of the ocean bed] is too flat. The building has to stay intact so that people can evacuate vertically.”

Young and her colleagues created model-scale tsunamis at Oregon State University’s Tsunami Wave Basin, the largest experimental facility dedicated to the study of tsunamis in North America. She is the lead investigator from Princeton on the study of tsunami-induced sediment transport, part of the larger NSF-sponsored Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) program.

The experimental wave bed consisted of two flumes, each about 7 feet wide with a base of natural Oregon beach sand. It took three weeks of hard work to set up an experimental mini-tsunami, where each wave lasted only a few minutes, according to Young. “It is a difficult and time-consuming experiment to run due to the difficulty with sand, which changes the bathymetry with every wave,” she said.

The OSU wave generator produced large waves that – like a tsunami -- had only a crest and no trough. The concrete walls of the flumes had built-in windows that allowed Young and fellow researchers to observe and videotape the action underwater. Four cameras perched overhead also recorded the experiments.

The ultimate goal of Young’s experiments this summer is to establish “performance-based tsunami engineering” – basically guidelines for building structures that will withstand tsunamis.

Young and her colleagues are particularly interested in the study of enhanced sediment transport and potential “liquefaction” of the soil, which occurs when a tsunami wave recedes and exerts a sudden decrease in downward pressure on the saturated land; this in turn can cause the sand to liquefy and to flow out as a heavy slurry. Liquefaction can lead to the eventual collapse of buildings, highways or bridge abutments. Tsunamis can also cause landslides and the formation of gigantic potholes called “scours,” which can force underground oil pipelines to pop, resulting in environmental damage.

Most previous tsunami experiments have taken place over smooth, rigid, impervious bases such as glass, steel or concrete and thus have failed to take into account how the wave can profoundly alter the ground beneath it.

The problem of sediment transport is especially complex because of so many variables in the dynamics of sand and water, according to Young. “Sediment transport during tsunamis hasn’t been studied well at all,” said Young. “We plan to use this research to create a benchmark test that everyone can use to compare their numerical predictions. Ultimately we want to come up with a design procedure that can give a sense of the risk and the reliability of a structure and its foundation.”

Young’s research this summer was part of a larger NSF-funded project known as NEESR-SG: Development of Performance Based Tsunami Engineering (PBTE). Young is co-principal investigator on that project and her collaborators include Ron Riggs, Ian Robertson, and Kwok Fai Cheung of University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Solomon Yim of Oregon State University.

Young was assisted in her research this summer by Princeton Engineering graduate students Xiao Heng, Tan Ting, and Sun Waiching. Adedotun Moronkeji, an undergraduate from the University of Missouri-Rolla, also assisted in the research as part of the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Trevor Clark, a high school student from Oregon, helped with the experiments and processing the video of the experimental waves.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Princeton University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Princeton University. "Giant Wave Experiment Reveals Poorly Understood Behavior Of Tsunamis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014173915.htm>.
Princeton University. (2007, October 17). Giant Wave Experiment Reveals Poorly Understood Behavior Of Tsunamis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014173915.htm
Princeton University. "Giant Wave Experiment Reveals Poorly Understood Behavior Of Tsunamis." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014173915.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins