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On the Ground and in the Water, Tracing a Giant Wave’s Path

Published: December 25, 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. — Next to the office of Harindra Joseph S. Fernando at Arizona State University is a 107-foot-long wave tank that can mimic oceanic motions.

“This tank is one of the most wonderful pieces of equipment I have,” said Dr. Fernando, 52, the director of the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Program at Arizona State. “It’s amazing.”

After a tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004 and killed an estimated 300,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, Dr. Fernando used his amazing piece of equipment to determine why the wave was so lethal.

He and colleagues confirmed that human activities at southern Asian seashores — like coral poaching, dune destruction and mangrove harvesting — had made a natural disaster even more deadly.

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