A new way to detect tsunamis – cargo ships

tsunami technologyRacing across ocean basins at speeds over 500 miles per hour, tsunamis can wreak devastation along coastlines thousands of miles from their origin. Our modern tsunami detection networks reliably detect these events hours in advance and provide warning of their arrivals, but predicting the exact size and impact is more difficult.

Evacuating coastal zones can cost millions of dollars. To reliably predict whether a tsunami is large enough to require evacuations, many more observations from the deep ocean are needed.

Researchers from the University of Hawai’i (including me), funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are partnering with the Matson and Maersk shipping companies and the World Ocean Council to equip 10 cargo ships with real-time high-accuracy GPS systems and satellite communications. Each vessel will act as an open-ocean tide gauge. Data from these new tsunami sensors are streamed, via satellite, to a land-based data center where they are processed and analyzed for tsunami signals.

It is a pilot project to turn the moving ships into a distributed network of sensors that could give coastal communities more time to evacuate.

Despite the advances in tsunami monitoring and modeling technology over the last decade, it remains difficult for hazard response agencies to get enough information about potential tsunami threats. The problem is that there are too few observations of tsunamis to provide sufficiently accurate predictions about when, where and how severely tsunamis might occur.

The recognition that tsunamis can be detected from ships is a game-changer. There are thousands of large cargo ships sailing the shipping lanes across the world. Rather than building and deploying many more of the expensive traditional sensors to try to fill gaps in coverage, it makes sense to use the ships that are already out there. This new approach offers a cost-effective way of acquiring many more observations to augment the current detection networks. While these new observations will not necessarily lead to quicker detection of tsunamis, they will lead to more accurate predictions being made more quickly. To read more click here.

The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held at Jupiters Gold Coast, QLD on the 30-31 May 2016. The Conference theme ‘EARTH, FIRE and RAIN’ will continue to examine issues that impact preparedness, resilience, response and capability.

To register for the conference CLICK HERE. Early Bird Registrations Close: Monday 18 April 2016 so be quick to receive a discounted rate.

Delegates may also wish to attend the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR); Land, Sea & Air which will follow the Disaster and Emergency Management Conference on 1st June which discusses the issues and challenges in Search and Rescue and continue the support of professional development in new training, techniques and requirements.

Special discount rates are being offered to those that wish to attend both Conferences.