Math formula may be used to give advance warning of tsunami

Washington, April 1 (ANI): Scientists at Newcastle University, UK, have worked out a mathematical formula that could be used to give advance warning of where a tsunami is likely to hit and how destructive it will be.

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 that resulted in six massive wave fronts, one after the other.

Professor Johnson and his colleague Professor Adrian Constantin, based at the University of Vienna, Austria, felt that if we could understand more about how these long water waves behave, we could predict where they might hit and how devastating they might be.

“What we found was that the number and height of the tsunami waves hitting the shoreline depends critically on the shape of the initial surface wave in deep water,” explained Professor Johnson, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Newcastle University.

“From this, it is possible to work out whether a ‘trough’ or a ‘peak’ is the leading wave. In the case of a trough, then the familiar sight of the tide suddenly going out is the precursor to an approaching tsunami,” he added.

“If a peak is the leading wave, there is no warning except a fast-approaching wall of water,” he further added.

“Potentially, this could provide vital information for areas facing an impending disaster,” he explained.

The primary aim of the work was to present a new theory for very long waves over variable depths, in particular tsunamis.

The research shows that the number of peaks and troughs in the initial disturbance out at sea will dictate the number of wave fronts that will steepen and eventually produce tsunami waves.

According to Professor Johnson, by calculating the number of waves that will coalesce or ‘join together’ as the faster ones catch up the slower ones, it is possible to predict how many and how big and fast the final waves hitting the shoreline will be.

“We have shown that it is possible to use the initial wave pattern to work out how the wave will evolve and, importantly, how it might interact with the complicated motions close inshore to produce the tsunamis that we experience,” he explained.

“With a time delay of maybe two or three hours between the initial wave trigger and the tsunami hitting the shore, this could prove vital,” he added. (ANI)