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Can underwater sonar canons stop a tsunami in its tracks?

"This study has provided proof-of-concept that devastating tsunamis could be mitigated by using acoustic-gravity waves," said researcher Usama Kadri.

By Brooks Hays
Can underwater sonar canons stop a tsunami in its tracks?
Researchers suggest acoustic waves could be used to weaken or stop tsunamis. Photo by Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- New research suggests acoustic-gravity waves, or AGWs, could be used as a defense against deadly tsunamis.

Acoustic-gravity waves are sound waves that can travel for several miles beneath the surface of the ocean. Tsunamis are massive waves produced by earthquakes, landslides or other major geological phenomena.

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Scientists at Cardiff University theorized the power of acoustic-gravity waves could be harnessed and directed at an oncoming tsunami wave, reducing its amplitude and thus diminishing the magnitude of the damage. Researchers described the strategy in the journal Heliyon.

A single blast of AGWs, which can stretch several thousand feet, could shorten the height of a wave and spread its power out over a greater area. A series of AGWs fired in succession could dissipate the wave's power and momentum entirely.

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"Within the last two decades, tsunamis have been responsible for the loss of almost half a million lives, widespread long-lasting destruction, profound environmental effects and global financial crisis," Usama Kadri, a researcher at Cardiff University's School of Mathematics, said in a news release. "Up until now, little attention has been paid to trying to mitigate tsunamis and the potential of acoustic-gravity waves remains largely unexplored."

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The next step in the battle against tsunamis is developing some sort of underwater cannon -- or modulator -- capable of generating AGW frequency blasts. Natural AGWs are generated in the ocean by geological events; researchers suggest these AGWs could be redirected toward a threatening tsunami.

Tests show AGW detectors can predict the approach of a tsunami. The next step is to turn those sound waves against the seismic sea wave.

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"In practice, generating the appropriate acoustic-gravity waves introduces serious challenges due to the high energy required for an effective interaction with a tsunami," said Kadri. "However, this study has provided proof-of-concept that devastating tsunamis could be mitigated by using acoustic-gravity waves to redistribute the huge amounts of energy stored within the wave, potentially saving lives and billions of pounds worth of damage."

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