Faculty Mentor

Jeff Templeton




Tsunamis occur when infrastructure is at its most vulnerable, after an earthquake. One example that demonstrates this is the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami event. Many reinforced concrete (RC) buildings failed during the event and were lifted off their foundations. This occurred because entrapped air within these buildings allowed them to be more susceptible to buoyancy forces. In addition, soil liquefaction appears to have destabilized their foundations allowing them to be transported by the waves. Seawalls also failed, possibly due to suction pressure near the crown of the wall. The return flow of the tsunami caused further damage because roads and foundations had been undermined by soil liquefaction. Beyond the damage to buildings, nearly 16,000 people lost their lives. The staggering loss of life and massive amount of damage occurred in a country that was thought to have “invulnerable” buildings and other structures built specifically for tsunamis. The 2011 Japan event illustrates the scale of destruction that can occur from an earthquake and tsunami of this magnitude. Even so, there are ways to minimize damage and prevent loss of life. For example, in Japan, breakaway walls, windows, and doors allowed water to flow into buildings, keeping them from being lifted from their foundation. Shadow zones behind RC buildings, protected weaker structures from being destroyed. New strategies are currently being developed to help minimize death and destruction from tsunamis. Studies of tree distribution are being used to lessen the forces associated with tsunami waves. Stricter building codes, improved infrastructure design and planning, and other mitigation efforts can save lives and promote resiliency for communities that may face an earthquake and tsunami of the size and scope of the Japan 2011 event.




Earth/Physical Science


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