OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU prof testifies about tsunami research before Congress

02/03/2005

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University ocean engineering professor Daniel Cox testified Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is hearing testimony about the Tsunami Preparedness Act of 2005 and the U.S. Tsunami Warning System bill. He appeared at the request of U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, a member of the committee.

Congress is looking into ways to expand the nation's tsunami early-warning system currently in place along the Pacific coast, and how the U.S. can be better prepared to respond to future tsunamis.

Cox described the value of the National Science Foundation's recent $4.8 million in funding that enabled the OSU College of Engineering to construct the Tsunami Wave Basin, the world's largest and most-wired facility specifically designed for tsunami research.

Research at the OSU facility will lead to development of more effective tsunami early-warning systems, safer evacuation routes and procedures, and better designs for buildings and bridges, Cox said.

Employing a programmable wavemaker at one end, the Tsunami Wave Basin is capable of generating a solitary wave, while researchers observe how the wave impacts contoured terrain installed in the basin, he said. On this terrain, researchers place models of coastal infrastructure, such as bridges and buildings, instrumented with sensors to measure the impact of the wave or debris. Researchers anywhere in the world can participate in tsunami experiments at OSU in real-time via the internet.

Cox is director of the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, which houses the Tsunami Wave Basin as well as the longest wave flume in North America.

Following the Dec. 26 tsunami in Asia, Cox and his OSU colleagues, including tsunami expert Harry Yeh, Chris Goldfinger of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, and geosciences professor Robert Yeats, have responded to intense international media interest, and were featured in news stories by CNN, the New York Times, National Geographic, the Today Show, and others. The wave lab's website has seen a 10-fold increase in traffic since the Asian tsunami hit.

"The collaborative research we're doing here at Oregon State University will directly save lives when another tsunami hits in the future," said Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering. "This is what excellent engineering is all about: solving complex problems through innovation. In this case, it's about saving lives."