Scientists are working to fight against the devastating impacts of tsunamis by turning the destructive wave against itself.
Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales have proposed firing deep-ocean sound waves at the oncoming mass of water to stop the tsunamis dead in its tracks.
Usama Kadri, Ph.D., a professor from Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics, proposed that acoustic-gravity waves (AGWs)—naturally occurring sound waves that move through the deep ocean at the speed of sound and can travel thousands of meters below the surface—could be effective against tsunamis that are triggered by earthquakes, landslides and other violent geological events.
According to Kadri, it may be possible to engineer these waves so they can be fired at an incoming tsunami and react with the wave in a way that reduces its amplitude or height and causes its energy to be dissipated over a large area. However, this concept needs to be studied further.
By reducing the height of the tsunami, the damage caused to both civilians and the environment would be minimized, said Kadri.
Continously firing AGWs at a tsunami could completely disperse the dangerous waves.
“Within the last two decades, tsunamis have been responsible for the loss of almost half a million lives, widespread long-lasting destruction, profound environmental effects and global financial crisis,” Kadri said in a statement. “Up until now, little attention has been paid to trying to mitigate tsunamis and the potential of acoustic-gravity waves remains largely unexplored.”
It is believed that certain lifeforms that are unable to swim against a current, like plankton, rely on AGWs— which can measure tens or even hundreds of kilometers in length—to aid their movement and enhance their ability to find food.
In 2004, a magnitude 9 earthquake caused a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that resulted in over 230,000 deaths in 14 countries.
The energy released on the Earth’s surface by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami was estimated to be the equivalent of over 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
While Kadri believes AGWs could be effective in the fight against tsunamis, a true method of dispensing the waves has not yet been produced.
Engineers would first need to devise highly accurate AGW frequency transmitters or modulators, which Kadri said would be a challenge.
However, Kadri has already shown that naturally occurring AGWs could be utilized in an early tsunami detection system by placing detection systems in the deep ocean.
Tsunamis come with a high price tag and minimizing the impact could have a huge monetary impact worldwide, he added.
The study appeared in Heliyon.