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Scientists are trawling the coastlines of Sri Lanka recording signs of erosion caused by last month's tsunami and collecting sand samples to assess the number, speed and height of waves that hit the land.

In this article in Nature, Quirin Schiermeier explains why it is so important to gather as much data as possible about exactly what happened when the waves struck. Although computer-generated simulations of tsunamis exist, the lack of information about what happens during a tsunami means that they are not very accurate.

The models have improved in recent years, but researchers say that the more information they have, the better the model. Mapping the seabed around Sri Lanka could, for instance, indicate which areas are most vulnerable to future tsunamis.

By digging deep in coastlines and marshes to uncover long-buried deposits, geologists could reveal clues about how often tsunamis hit the region in the past.

Link to full article in Nature

Link to SciDev.Net's news focus 'Tsunami update'

Reference: Nature 433, 350 (2004)