Tsunami education

Douglas M. Kafury

Professor collected sediment data from the wreckage caused by recent tsunami

A student in room 302 of McGilvrey Hall had the appropriate beverage with him for the geology colloquium yesterday. He had a SoBe beverage called a “Tsunami.”

After all, that’s what the speaker just got back from studying.

Students and faculty members came to hear Andrew Moore’s colloquium, “Field Observations of the Indian Ocean Tsunami; Sumatra.”

Moore, assistant professor of geology and tsunami sedimentologist, said he traveled to Banda Aceh, which is the northernmost province in Sumatra, about three weeks after the tsunami occurred. The university funded the trip.

Moore said that he collected data on the sediment that was left behind by the tsunami and how that sediment moved.

“What we’re going to do is try and characterize the sediment the tsunami left behind,” he said. “One of the things that we are trying to figure out is something about what that debris can tell us about the hydraulics of this and a number of tsunamis.”

He was part of a group of about 20 scientists, who formed into smaller, more specialized groups to conduct their research.

Moore said the effort to restore the area moved along quickly, but that hurt his research because as people cleaned up the sediment, evidence was lost.

He was confined to certain areas to conduct research because of the damage to roads and bridges, Moore said.

Damage left by the tsunami wasn’t the only thing limiting Moore. The separatist movement occurring there caused authorities to set a curfew of 5 p.m. for the researchers, he said.

Moore showed pictures of the destruction the tsunami left and showed a video of a small tsunami actually occurring. He also showed a computer simulation of how the water flows inland during a tsunami.

“One of the reasons we worry about tsunamis so much is because they are probably the most devastating seismic hazard we can face,” Moore said.

Moore said one of the biggest reasons for studying tsunamis is the possibility of having warning systems in place for such an event to give more time for evacuation.

“In the case of Sri Lanka and Thailand, had a warning system been in place, they had about two hours between the time that the earthquake happened and the time the tsunami struck,” he said.

Moore also talked about tsunamis hitting the state of Washington about 300 years ago.

“I thought it was interesting because of the possibilities for predicting major tsunamis that might possibly hit the west coast in the future,” said Ty Burin, senior technology major, who attended the colloquium.

Many of the nearly 100 people who packed the lecture hall were interested to learn about the disaster that killed more than 160,000 people.

“I came because the tsunami was such a major disaster, and I wanted to learn more about the research being done there,” said Brian Shoemaker,senior English major.

Contact science reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected].