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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

Researchers design a structure that can shield coastal villages from tsunamis. Jessie Martin reports.


GELLERMAN: Coming up – mud, glorious mud – but first, this note on emerging science from Jessie Martin.


MARTIN: On the morning of December 26, 2004, a wall of water one hundred feet high came crashing onto the shores of the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. The Asian Tsunami killed over 200,000 people and destroyed the homes and fishing boats of many more.

Four years later, a group of researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Aix Marseille think they’ve come up with a way to protect coastlines from tsunamis and other large waves. Their idea is to build a structure similar to a levee off the shore of tsunami prone areas. But unlike a traditional levee that blocks waves, the new design uses a series of pillars to deflect the water along concentric corridors. The water would move around the levee columns and exit to either the left or the right of where it entered, leaving a calm, wave-free region in between.

The scientists believe that the levees would be relatively easy to make. The pillars could be constructed from any hard, nonporous material available, including tree trunks anchored to the ocean floor. A levee that’s a hundred yards in diameter – the length of a football field – would create a forty yard wave free zone. That’s not a long stretch - but the researchers believe it’s long enough to provide a safe place for people to gather and wait out a tsunami.

So far, the scientists have successfully tested their design using a small scale model. The next step is to build a full sized levee – one that will protect villages from oversized waves.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Jessie Martin.



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