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Kent State Researcher to Look for Clues in Tsunami Sand

Kent State Researcher to Look for Clues in Tsunami Sand

KENT, Ohio
Aside from the massive tragedy that resulted from a tsunami in South Asia, a research opportunity also suddenly exists for a Kent State University assistant professor of geology who studies tsunami sedimentation.

Sand deposits may hold clues for Dr. Andrew Moore, who plans to visit northern Sumatra island in Indonesia this month.

“In some ways, we feel like ambulance chasers, and I guess we are. We try not to intrude on their grief. We try to go after the dead are buried,” Moore says.

Yet quick action is necessary to gather what can now be learned, and information might someday save lives.

Comparisons might be drawn to the coastline of Oregon. There are signs there that warn of tsunami potential — sedimentologists proved it was hit by a major geological event about 300 years ago, Moore says.

He’ll collect soil samples from Sumatra, then using tests to determine the size of particles in the deposits, he’ll apply his theory of how the monstrous waves moved: how high, how fast, how many and in what direction.

Because the tsunami in South Asia has plenty of witnesses and scientific data, his tsunami theories will be tested. Drawing blueprints of long-forgotten geological events could be used to create more efficient evacuation procedures or inspire more thoughtful design, Moore says.

Moore believes that there might be 20 tsunami sedimentologists in the world.

He became intrigued with the topic about 15 years ago when, as a University of Washington graduate student in geology, he met others to piece together the history of tsunamis through mysteries in the soil.

Moore continued his research in a three-year stint in Japan. Then in 2002, the New York native accepted an appointment to Kent State.

When he’s not teaching environmental geology, sediment transport or hydrology, Moore is in the field. He has joined study teams. He’s studied a thousand-year-old tsunami in Washington state’s Puget Sound, a 1771 event in Okinawa, and the aftermath of the mighty Krakatau volcanic explosion — in what is now Indonesia — in 1883.

Moore said that in the coming weeks, South Asia will be under a lot of scrutiny.
“It’s an unprecedented opportunity,” Moore says. “We’ve never seen anything like the scope of this.”

—  Associated Press

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