Stanford Research Shows How Park-Like Tsunami Defenses Can Provide a Sustainable Alternative to Towering Seawalls


Careful engineering of low, plant-covered hills along shorelines can mitigate tsunami risks with less disruption of coastal life and lower costs compared to seawalls.

In tsunami preparedness, it turns out there can be strength in beauty. Rows of green hills strategically arranged along coastlines can help to fend off destruction from tsunamis while preserving ocean views and access to the shore. For some communities, they may offer a better option than towering seawalls.

Those are the findings of a peer-reviewed paper by a team of researchers who have tried to quantify how tsunami waves of different heights interact with mounds of various sizes and shapes arranged near the water’s edge. The research was published on May 4 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Giant seawalls are the conventional approach to mitigating tsunami risk. Japan, for example, has built hundreds of miles of concrete walls, taller than 40 feet in some places, at a cost of more than $12 billion since tsunami waves crashed through seawalls and flattened coastal communities throughout eastern Japan in March 2011.

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