Wave after Wave

Today’s blog is inspired by a seminar talk from Dr David McGovern on tsunami experiments. This was a really interesting lecture that managed to finally go ahead after finding out the original room had been booked for a nursing seminar. The woman next to me couldn’t stop laughing when I realised this.

In the talk, we were shown videos on the huge labs that had been created to simulate small scale tsunamis. They weren’t Hollywood blockbuster scale in terms of dramatic effect…but they did show how powerful they can be when travelling up any kind of slope. Other videos also showed how a small scale coastal defence like that of Japans was overtopped and destroyed. Obviously people are begging for methods to stop them but the crucial thing to remember in this talk was understanding their nature, as this phenomena is so new. It was just over ten years ago that the world actually understood the devastation of a tsunami. Most people didn’t even know what one was back then. Most people didn’t see it coming.

Towards the end, David brought up an interesting point which could be a game changer.


He tested the hypothesis that mangroves, coral reefs and other sea bed formations could mitigate tsunamis to a degree. I mean why not, it’s been anecdotally told in geography that they cause turbulence and roughness. Why had no-one put it to the test before? So in his experiment he constructed a bed of planks evenly spaced on the floor and repeated the same process. Only to find out that the waves accelerated at the point they reached them. His explanation was that it caused even more pressure in the build-up of energy. As we know, tsunamis react positively to pressure. They’re essentially the Usain Bolt of catastrophes – the more pressure, the more will to run wild.

In a nutshell, mangroves and coral reefs potentially makes tsunami effects even worse so what can we do? If we can’t fight them with nature or engineering, should we be fighting them at all? How have our ancestors dealt with them in the past? Should people be living on coastlines at risk of Tsunamis?

Leave your opinion in the comments below tsunami-evacuation-plan


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