Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami Warning to prevent loss of life and property

A tsunami warning system (TWS) is a system to detect tsunamis and issue warnings to prevent loss of life and property. It consists of two equally important components: a network of sensors to detect tsunamis and a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation of coastal areas.

There are two distinct types of tsunami warning systems: international and regional. Both depend on the fact that, while tsunamis travel at between 500 and 1,000 km/h (around 0.14 and 0.28 km/s) in open water, earthquakes can be detected almost at once as seismic waves travel with a typical speed of 4 km/s (around 14,400 km/h). This gives time for a possible tsunami forecast to be made and warnings to be issued to threatened areas, if warranted. Unfortunately, until a reliable model is able to predict which earthquakes will produce significant tsunamis, this approach will produce many more false alarms than verified warnings. In the correct operational paradigm, the seismic alerts are used to send out the watches and warnings. Then, data from observed sea level height (either shore-based tide gauges or DART buoys) are used to verify the existence of a tsunami.

Other systems have been proposed to augment the warning paradigm. For example, it has been suggested that the duration and frequency content of t-wave energy (which is earthquake energy trapped in the ocean SOFAR channel) is indicative of an earthquakes tsunami potential.The first rudimentary system to alert communities of an impending tsunami was attempted in Hawaii in the 1920s. More advanced systems were developed in the wake of the April 1, 1946 (caused by the 1946 Aleutian Islands earthquake) and May 23, 1960 (caused by the 1960 Valdivia earthquake) tsunamis which caused massive devastation in Hilo, Hawaii.

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