The next wave of tsunami research

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On December 11, 2007

University of Missouri-Rolla civil engineering senior Adedotun Moronkeji,
30, is part of the next wave of tsunami research.

Under the leadership of Yin Lu “Julie" Young, an assistant professor of
civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University’s School of
Engineering and Applied Science, Moronkeji spent three months last summer
helping to create model-scale experiments at Oregon State University’s (OSU)
Tsunami Wave Basin, the largest facility of its type in North America.

Unlike previous research into the effects of tsunamis, which examined the
impact of the incoming rush of water, Young’s research looks at the effect
tsunamis can exert on the earth beneath them when drawing back into the ocean;
providing a realistic model of what happens to the sand during a tsunami.

Moronkeji, who hails from Nigeria, and a team consisting of Young, three
graduate students from Princeton and a high school student from Oregon, spent
three weeks meticulously setting up experimental mini tsunamis in order to
conduct just minutes of testing to examine the sediment transport caused by the
wave. Of particular interest to the group was the study of the enhanced
transport and potential “liquefaction" of the soil, which occurs when a
tsunami wave recedes and exerts a sudden decrease in downward pressure on the
land, causing the sand to flow out as a heavy slurry.

OSU’s Tsunami Wave Basin consists of two flumes, each about 7 feet wide,
with a base of natural Oregon sand. The OSU wave generator produces waves that,
like a tsunami, have only a crest and no trough. The concrete walls of the
flumes have built-in windows, which allowed the team to observe and videotape
the effects of the wave underwater.

“To work in that environment was very pleasing and fulfilling,"
Moronkeji says, adding the opportunity to work with the equipment at OSU was
exciting. “It turned out to be a very eye-opening experience for me."

The research into the effects of tsunamis on soil is part of a larger,
National Science Foundation-funded project known as NEESR-SG: Development of
Performance Based Tsunami Engineering (PBTE). Moronkeji says the goal of the
research is to develop new methods of construction in coastal cities that can
withstand soil erosion caused by tsunami waves.

Moronkeji applied to work with the Network for Earthquake Engineering
Simulation (NEES) after learning about the opportunity through the NEES
website. He says his experiences at OSU have inspired him to attend graduate
school at UMR after he receives his bachelor’s degree Saturday, Dec. 15
Moronkeji plans to study geotechnical engineering.

“Before working at OSU, I wasn’t thinking about grad school, but this made
me see the need for research in this area," he says, adding that he
encourages other students to pursue available research opportunities.

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On December 11, 2007. Posted in Research