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Advances in modeling of long waves to help predict tsunami hazards

Impressive science is being produced as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The focus now must be on creating systems within national governments that will allow the best use of science. Modeling data on projected tsunami arrival times (if any) were available to all on September 12, 2007. There is no evidence that the government’s hasty evacuation order took into account any of this information.

A new mathematical formula that could be used to give advance warning of where a tsunami is likely to hit and how destructive it will be has been worked out by scientists at Newcastle University.

The research, led by Newcastle University’s Professor Robin Johnson, was prompted by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami disaster which devastated coastal communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

In this instance, an earthquake in the depths of the ocean triggered a long surface wave which resulted in six massive wave fronts, one after the other.

Of these waves it was the third and largest one that caused the most devastation, hitting the beaches with terrifying speed. Reaching a height of 20m, it is this wave that lifted a train from its tracks as it travelled along the Sri Lankan coastline, killing almost 1,000 people.

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