In 2004, the world most witnessed one of the most devastating natural disasters that had occurred in the last 100 years. On December 26th of that year, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean spawned an enormous tsunami that claimed the lives of thousands in the surrounding lands. In the months following the tsunami, many wondered what steps could be taken to minimize human loss in the event of such an unavoidable natural event. As a result, scientists began to seek an improved early alert system to detect tsunamis.
Almost two years after the Indian Ocean earthquake, NASA’s Earth Observatory announced the development of a new seafloor pressure recording system that is designed to detect tsunamis shortly after their development. The new system is expected to extend alert times in addition to avoiding false alarms. The project is being supervised by the German National Research Centre for Geosciences, located in Potsdam, Germany. Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research are directing the project. Additionally, Optimare and develogic are companies that are working on the acoustic-based portion of the system known as PACT. See more topics Road safety.
The Zentrum fur Marine Umweltswissenschaft and the University of Rhode Island are also working on PACT. Though generally thought to be a single giant ocean wave, tsunamis are actually made of multiple waves. In many instances, the affected shoreline can be repeatedly hit by several large waves. Tsunamis are caused by a sudden motion in the ocean floor which can be the result of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, an underwater landslide, or the impact of a large meteorite. Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes that originate in subduction zones, or areas where an oceanic plate is being forced into the earth’s mantle.
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Where there is a great amount of friction between two plates, the overriding plate can become distorted and as a result a large amount of energy is stored, often over decades of centuries. After the stored seismic energy exceeds the frictional forces between the two plates, the distorted plate suddenly returns to its original position and an earthquake results. The overlying water is displaced, generating large waves that spread outward from the epicenter. The newly developed system measures vibration and horizontal seafloor movements in order to locate seaquakes, which could possibly generate tsunamis.
The measurements that are taken from the seafloor are obtained and analyzed with a matter of just a few minutes. Data is collected and analyzed every 15 seconds. Water levels are also measured off the coast using bottom pressure sensors to detect any rises in sea level before the large waves reach the shallower waters along the coast. So far the system has proven to be compact, reliable, and energy efficient. At this point, an acoustic modem sends information to a second modem, which sends a satellite message, or telegram, to the warning center, delivering notification of a tsunami.
After two years of development, none of the telegrams were lost, which believed to be an early indication of the system’s crucial reliability. The new system will be implemented into the pre-existing global system which is used to detect tsunami events. Further testing will be conducted in the Mediterranean. The developers will also examine the reliability of the system’s ability to transmit under different weather conditions. The development of this improved system shows great progress in the effort to provide effective warnings for tsunamis, thereby reducing the number of casualties.
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The potential for the success of this system has been indicated in a series of successful tests and the fact that no telegrams have been lost to date. Much still remains to be seen, however, in determining the limits of the system and discovering factors like weather conditions may contribute to reduced efficiency of the system. The article does not mention the important aspect of how those who are in the path of a tsunami will be notified that they may evacuate in time to avoid the disaster.
This is of particular importance in the case of remote villages and areas where technological infrastructure may not be developed to the level of more industrialized regions. No matter how quickly the data is collected and transmitted to the warning center, it is imperative that the information regarding the approaching tsunami be delivered to those who may be affected in a timely manner. Delivering information to remote regions may be a challenge that the developers will need to address as they attempt to meet the need for early warning in the areas that lie along the Indian Ocean.
Though there are still potential concerns that need to be evaluated, it is promising that an advanced system has been put in place over a relatively short period of time. Furthermore, there is now an alert system in a region where previously no such mechanism existed. This may provide greater protection and preparedness to a region that has already seen the devastation that a tsunami can do. If the system continues to be successful and is implemented into the global system, it will eventually save many lives and it may also allow scientists to learn more about the seismic activity that occurs under the ocean floor.
In conclusion, NASA’s article provides an informative report on an important milestone in the development of a system that will not only help people across the earth prepare for natural disasters, but that also may lead to groundbreaking discoveries that could allow scientists to additional important discovers that can help us to better understand our planet
Works Cited Earth Observatory. Tsunami-recording in the Deep Sea. 25 November 2007. NASA. 17 November 2007. < http://earthobservatory. nasa. gov/ Newsroom/ MediaAlerts/ 2007/2007111925951. html>.
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