Tsunami Debris Study Conducted By Researchers
March 25, 2014

Simulations To Study Destructive Impact Of Tsunami Debris

[ Watch The Video: Engineers Recreate Tsunami Debris Impacts to Measure Their Force ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While experts have long known that the debris caused by a tsunami can often cause as much damage as the actual wave itself, engineers have for the first time managed to design and conduct a series of large-scale simulations in order to determine the actual impact of these destroyed objects.

With assistance from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Hawaii civil and environmental engineering professor Ron Riggs and his colleagues are working on a project that examines the types of debris that would exist in a typical tsunami environment. They collected data and used it to validate computer models of who different types of debris would respond under the stress of impact.

“This has been a fascinating project, coupling the Network for Earthquake Engineering (NEES) large-scale structures test facility at Lehigh University with the NEES Tsunami Research Facility at Oregon State University, and both providing data for the analytical work at the University of Hawaii,” Riggs said in a statement Monday.

“The general understanding gained from these models allows the team to determine building design loads for impact by various debris types, based on their impact velocity, mass and stiffness,” added Clay Naito, civil and environmental engineering professor at Lehigh University and one of the researchers involved on the project. “These data allow one to examine the response of buildings, and provides engineers with the information needed to design for an accidental impact.”

Tsunamis, such as the March 11, 2011 event that resulted from the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake in Japan and caused level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, often dislodge objects such as telephone poles. Those objects can, in turn, cause damage to houses or other buildings.

Prior to this research, however, the actual amount of damage such debris can cause was unknown. Through their efforts, Riggs, Naito and their fellow engineers are hoping to improve the design of buildings so that those structures will be better able to withstand the force generated by tsunami debris.

“The amount of debris generated by the 2004 Indian Ocean, 2010 Chilean, and 2011 Japanese tsunamis highlight the need for this research to help us better design structures for debris loading when these disasters occur,” said Joy Pauschke, NEES program director within the NSF Engineering Directorate's Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation.

[ Watch the Video: What is a Tsunami ]