Researchers Propose Novel Way Of Stopping Tsunamis With Sound Waves


Calamitous tsunamis could be stopped before hitting the Earth's shore through deep-ocean sound waves aimed at the oncoming mass of water, according to new research. Lives could be saved by this technology, employing acoustic-gravity waves (AGWs) against tsunamis produced by earthquakes and other violent geological events.

AGWs are sound waves that occur naturally, moving through the deep ocean at the speed of sound. They can travel thousands of meters below the water surface.

The sound waves can measure tens and even hundreds of miles in length. It is believed that certain life forms, such as planktons, which are incapable of swimming against the current, rely on the waves to help them move, thus being able to find food and sustain life.

Using AWGs Against Tsunamis

The research, published Jan. 25, in the journal Heliyon, suggests that scientific efforts should be coordinated toward finding a technique to engineer these AGWs so that in a case of a tsunami, we could fire them and reduce its amplitude or height. This process would cause the tsunami to spread its energy, dissipating it over a larger area, producing less overall harm and possibly saving lives.

According to the lead author of the research, this course of action would minimize the damage caused by the tsunami to both people and the environment. Additionally, the researcher suggests that this technique could be performed repeatedly until the tsunami is completely dissipated, lacking the power to produce damage on the shoreline.

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean with a magnitude 9 earthquake, the phenomenon was recorded as one of the deadliest natural diseases in recent history, accounting for 230,000 deaths in 14 countries. In the mechanics of that tsunami's power, the energy released on the Earth's surface by both the earthquake and the tsunami was approximated to 1,500 times more powerful than the one of Hiroshima atomic bomb.

"Unlike surface ocean waves, AGWs form with tsunamis and induce pressure disturbances not only near the surface but in the whole water column, reaching the sea-floor where they leave measurable pressure signatures, which makes them perfect tsunami precursors. Such a detection station should be installed in the deep ocean where AGWs are expected to travel freely in the water column. This has clear benefits relative to standard warning systems that rely on the actual arrival of the tsunami," noted the research.

For this technology to be created, engineers will need to devise very accurate AGW frequency transmitters or modulators, which will be a challenging task, according to the lead author.

Tsunamis And The Current Means Of Prevention

In case of a tsunami, the best means of prevention currently available is evacuating people in the red-flagged areas as soon as possible, immediately following the warning. There is an accredited international organization in charge of emitting such notes, the International Tsunami Warning System.

"When the instruments detect a major earthquake and the potential for a tsunami to occur, warnings are issued to local authorities who can order the evacuation of low-lying areas, if necessary," according to the U.S. National Weather Service.

The results of the current research could significantly improve the means of prevention and save human lives should this technology be designed.

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