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Mathematician Proposes Blocking Tsunamis with Sound Waves

Whether or not we could ever engineer such a thing is uncertain.
January 29, 2017, 6:50pm

Usama Kadri, a mathematician at Cardiff University in the UK, has published new calculations in the open-access journal  Heliyon demonstrating the possibility of neutralizing tsunamis with underwater sound waves. While actually implementing such a scheme would be enormously expensive and an enormous technical challenge, there aren't a whole lot of other tsunami defenses that don't basically just reduce to "getting the fuck to high ground before the wave hits." So, it's pretty novel.

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The sound waves in question are more properly known as acoustic gravity waves (AGWs): vast underwater waves that travel at the speed of sound and are generated naturally by earthquakes and other geological events. In a sense, Kadri is then proposing fighting fire with fire. AGWs form naturally with tsunamis and act as subsurface precursors to the main event, affecting disturbances to the water column all the way from the surface to the seabed. AGW detection has recently been proposed as a an early-warning mechanism for tsunamis and rogue waves.

"Besides acting as tsunami precursors, AGWs can exchange and share energy with surface ocean waves," Kadri explains. This exchange occurs in an interaction known as the resonant triad, which is probably easier to just visualize.

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