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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Tsunamis Warning System
Dawn Stuckey
Physical Geology
Spring 2006


                                                               What is a tsunami?

                A tsunami is “a series of long waves generated by rapid, large scale disturbances of the sea-the sudden displacement of a large volume of water, generally from the raising or falling of the seafloor caused by undersea earthquakes” (The Bridge). In December of 2004, a 9.0 earthquake occurred in the Indonesian ocean, causing a vast number of tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. Around 275,000 lives were lost from these tsunamis and a great deal of damaged was caused. A majority of those lives may have been saved if the Indian Ocean had a tsunami warning system.

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                     What is a tsunami warning system?

                In 1985, the Pacific Marine Environmental Agency in Seattle, WA began research on tsunamis and detection by putting what they call a “tsunameter” in the bottom of the ocean. This device is a buoy that uses bottom-pressure recorders (BPR’s) to measure and detect as little an amplitude of 1 centimeter in 6,000 centimeters of water.  Tsunamis can travel at over 800 miles per hour and take a long time to lose speed. The deeper the water, the greater the speed of the tsunami.  An average buoy lasts about 1 year and the BPR’s usually last up to two.  NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is in the process of creating a newer, more accurate tsunami system that lasts longer. 


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                The picture above shows an illustration of what a tsunami warning system looks like. The buoy sits on top of the water and receives vibrations from the BPR. A satellite then receives information from the buoy and the information is watched by tsunami warning centers in the US.


                                Where are Tsunami Warning Centers located?

                The NOAA operates two warning centers in the United States: one in Alaska and one in Hawaii. The Alaska Tsunami Warning center is located in Palmer, Alaska and is the regional warning center for Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, and California.  The other warning center is the Pacific Warning Center, located in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and is the international warning center for the Pacific Ocean.  Since the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, many places, such as Germany, Australia, India, and Thailand, are taking action to install tsunami-warning systems to help prevent future devastation from the effects of tsunamis.


                                How important is it to warn of a tsunami?

                As I said before, over 275,000 lives were lost in the tsunami that occurred in Southeast Asia. I believe the development of these warning systems is crucial to the future survival of those who may be affected by a tsunami. I also think it is important to teach those who live in coastal regions what to do if a tsunami happens, so they have a higher chance of surviving it. The most important thing that needs to be focused on is the development of more accurate tsunami warning systems. If people can be warned ahead of time of a possible tsunami and they have time to react by evacuating, it may be possible to save every life. It would be a shame to see so many lives lost again due to a tsunami because their country had no way of knowing it was about to hit. I hope that more systems will be put to use in these coastal regions, and if a disaster like the one in December of 2004 happens again, lives will be saved because of the knowledge of a tsunami and what to do.  

Damage caused to a place in Thailand from the 2004 tsunami.

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