Checking the Surf

Engineers use wavelengths and amplitude to quantify different types of waves. They have developed tsunami detection devices to help warn people of the approach of a tsunami, which can be very dangerous — oftentimes destroying entire coastal communities. The amplitude of an ocean wave is typically 2 to 3 meters, but an undersea earthquake can create tsunamis with amplitudes greater than 10 meters. Engineers must have a good understanding of how waves can amplify under what conditions to create technology to help prevent disaster and even death.