Government Completes Tsunami Warning System

By: Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne Email
By: Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne Email

NOAA has deployed the final two tsunami
detection buoys in the South Pacific, completing
the buoy network and bolstering the U.S. tsunami
warning system. This vast network of 39 stations
provides real-time data to the tsunami warning
system in order to provide coastal communities in
the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of
Mexico with faster and more accurate tsunami warnings.

These final deep-ocean assessment and
reporting of tsunami (DART) stations, deployed
off the Solomon Islands, will give NOAA
forecasters real-time data about tsunami that
could potentially strike the U.S. Pacific coast,
Hawaii and U.S. Pacific territories. Tsunami
sensors are now positioned between Hawaii and
every seismic zone that could generate a tsunami
that would affect the state and beyond, including
the U.S. West Coast. Buoys already in the western
Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean have been
keeping watch over the U.S East and Gulf coasts.

“Completing the U.S. tsunami warning
system is truly a monumental triumph that
includes the advancement of the science, the
development and testing of cutting edge
technology, and the large scale project
management skills that brought it all together on
a global scale,” said retired Navy Vice Adm.
Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of
commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and NOAA
administrator. “As a young scientist who
researched tsunamis and built early models of
their effects, I never imagined that we could
come so far in our ability to understand, to
detect, to model and to warn on such a scale as we have just achieved.”

DART stations consist of a bottom pressure
sensor anchored to the seafloor and a companion
moored surface buoy. An acoustic link transmits
data from the bottom pressure sensor to the
surface buoy, and then satellite links relay the
data to NOAA tsunami warning centers. The DART
network serves as the cornerstone to the U.S. tsunami warning system.

Other components of the tsunami warning
system include NOAA’s tsunami warning centers, a
network of tide and seismic stations, forecast
models for at-risk communities, and
TsunamiReady™, a public preparedness and education program.

Since the Indonesian tsunami of December
2004, NOAA has made significant upgrades to the
U.S. tsunami warning system, including:

* Installing 49 new or upgraded tide gages
* Installing or upgrading eight seismic stations
* Expanding the network of DART buoys from six
(exclusively in the eastern Pacific) to 39 (from
the western Pacific to the Atlantic) * Growing
the number of TsunamiReady communities from 16 to more than 50 today.
* Developing 26 inundation forecast models and
implementing a new tsunami warning system
* Extending the operations of the Pacific and
West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Centers to 24 hours a day
* Assisting Australia and Indonesia with
installing tsunami warning systems off their coasts.

NOAA encourages state and local
communities to improve their resiliency to
tsunamis by participating in the TsunamiReady
program. This program serves to educate the
public about the threat of a tsunami and ensure
people know what to do when NOAA issues a tsunami
warning. Through active research, NOAA is working
to detect tsunamis and issue warnings more
rapidly. These efforts will enhance NOAA’s
ability to protect the American people from the
potentially devastating hazard of a U.S.-bound tsunami.

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