It seems slightly counterintuitive: a tsunami generator that protects cities from future tsunamis. But that’s exactly what the wave-generating machine located at University College London supposedly does.
The machine, developed with cash from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is mounted in a 148-foot long wave channel. It uses an air-driven system containing a fan and control
valves to suck water into a tank and release it in a controlled manner. This mimics the phenomenon of tsunamis that suck out the sea before crashing into the shoreline. In comparison, nearly every other wave generator in the world uses pistons to generate waves–a less realistic system that can’t generate the massive wavelength of tsunamis.
Now that researchers have access to a realistic tsunami simulator, they can begin the difficult work of predicting tsunami behavior. Researchers have already used the generator to mimic the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at a small scale–data will be available to the public sometime in the next two years. The information gleaned from the tsunami generator might not be able to prevent disaster entirely, but it can at least ensure that cities are prepared when the next big one hits.