US completes advanced tsunami warning network

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said today it had deployed the final two tsunami detection buoys in the South Pacific, completing the marker network and substantially reinforcing the US tsunami warning system.

Now a 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. Tsunami sensors are now positioned between Hawaii and every seismic zone that could generate a tsunami that would hit the states.

Buoys already in the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean have been keeping watch over the US East and Gulf coasts, NOAA said.The DART system provides real-time tsunami detection as waves travel across open waters.

According to a NOAA the stations consist of a bottom pressure sensor that is 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 ground stations.

The DART buoys were developed by the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at a cost of about $450,000. The station's data will be available to all nations through the World Meteorological Organization Global Telecommunications System and will be part of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. The Global Telecommunication System (GTS) consists of an integrated network of point-to-point circuits, and multi-point circuits which interconnect meteorological telecommunication centers.

Since the Indonesian tsunami of December 2004, NOAA has made significant upgrades to the 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)

* 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.

According to NOAA, since 1850 tsunamis have been responsible for the loss of more than 420,000 lives and billions of dollars of damage to coastal structures and habitats. Most of these casualties were caused by local tsunamis that occur about once per year somewhere in the world. For example, the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami near Thailand killed about 130,000 people close to the earthquake and about 58,000 people on distant shores. Predicting when and where the next tsunami will strike is impossible but the idea is these sensor networks will help avert calamity and give localities early warning to evacuate as many people as possible.

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