OSU Receives $1.1 Million to Install New “Hurricane” Wavemaker


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have been awarded $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to install a “hurricane” wavemaker at the O. H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, to better understand the impacts of hurricanes and other coastal hazards.

The high performance wavemaker will be installed in late 2008 in North America’s largest coastal wave flume, helping researchers around the world to better simulate waves generated by extreme storms. This is an important step in understanding the impact these waves have on coastal infrastructure and better educating coastal residents about survival preparedness.

“This new hurricane wavemaker will be the largest in the United States and will enable us to create the long-period waves and high wave heights associated with hurricane waves and other extreme storms,” said Daniel Cox, associate professor of civil engineering at OSU and director of the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory.

The U.S. has no coastal research facilities able to simulate hurricanes and other extreme storms that are large enough to minimize the effects of scaling.

The large-stroke, piston-type wavemaker will allow precision, large-scale studies, enabling safer and more cost-effective design of coastal infrastructure such as bridges, levees, buildings and lifelines, Cox said. This will lead to better practices for the repair and retrofit of existing structures and improved design codes for new construction. The facility will also improve education and outreach to people living in areas susceptible to coastal storms.

More than half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast – and the civil infrastructure along U.S. coasts, worth more than $3 trillion, is vulnerable to coastal storms. According to a 2007 report from the National Science Board, the economic and societal impacts of extreme events such as hurricanes are expected to escalate in coming years.

“This facility will assist engineers and scientists in developing resilient coastal communities in the face of increasing coastal population and rising sea levels due to global climate change,” said Cox, who will collaborate on the project with a number of OSU faculty from the OSU colleges of engineering, science, and oceanic and atmospheric sciences.

In addition to enhancing the study of wave impacts on coastal infrastructure, this new capability will enable researchers to study a range of engineering and scientific problems in constructed and natural coastal environments, including:

  • wave energy systems
  • coastal erosion and recovery after storms
  • dune erosion and overtopping
  • tsunami propagation over reefs
  • environmental fluid-sediment dynamics

Between 2000 and 2004, the NSF funded construction at OSU of the $5.4 million Tsunami Wave Basin, the largest facility of its kind in the world and part of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). Experimental data obtained from the basins are centrally archived at NEES, Inc. and can be used to validate and calibrate existing and future numerical models to solve engineering and scientific problems.

The Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory is a shared-use, international facility operated by the OSU College of Engineering. No other facility in the U.S. matches the size and performance of the basins, and only a handful of facilities in the world can operate at near-prototype ocean conditions. Due to the lab’s high level information technology, researchers worldwide can participate remotely in experiments at the facility.