How to Simulate a Tsunami for a Science Project

Written by etch tabor
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How to Simulate a Tsunami for a Science Project
A tsunami is a giant wave caused by seismic activity. (giant wave image by NorthShoreSurfPhotos from

A tsunami is a natural disaster that can cause extreme devastation through initial impact and subsequent flooding. Tsunamis are giant waves that are caused by seismic activity, either from an earthquake or a volcano eruption. In 2004, a large tsunami caused by a high-magnitude earthquake struck along the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Somalia, killing more than a quarter million people and leaving countless more homeless. When simulating a tsunami, it is best to use a clear tank so that you can see the wave activity under the water's surface.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 36 inch x 4.5 inch x 6 inch Plexiglass tank
  • Rubber cement or clear aquarium glue
  • 18 inch x 4 inch Plexiglass panel
  • 11 inch x 4 inch x 3 inch block of Plexiglass
  • Water
  • 2.27kg. bag of aquarium gravel
  • 5 inch wide wooden panel
  • Model trees, people and buildings

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  1. 1

    Insert the 18 inch x 4 inch Plexiglass panel into the tank. You will want to insert it on the side in which the wave will be created. Glue the panel so that it sits at a 45-degree angle relative to the side of the tank. About half the panel will end up higher than the side of the Plexiglass tank.

  2. 2

    Insert the 11 inch x 4 inch x 3 inch Plexiglass block on the other side of the tank. Glue the block so that it sits at about a 55-degree angle relevant to the side of the tank.

  3. 3

    Fill the tank with about 2.75 inches of water. If you want to increase the authenticity of the model, you can add a few drops of blue food colouring to give the water some colour.

  4. 4

    Glue the wooden panel to the edge of the tank opposite the side where the wave will begin.

  5. 5

    Glue your model people, trees and buildings onto the wooden ledge to represent land.

  6. 6

    Hold the bag of aquarium gravel about a foot above the tank on the side where the wave will begin.

  7. 7

    Dump the gravel into the tank and observe what happens. See how the waves affect the fake village you created.

Tips and warnings

  • You can vary the size of the tank and the Plexiglass panels to see how these adjustments affect the size and speed of the waves.
  • If your are cutting your own Plexiglass, be careful when handling sharp objects.

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