Magazine article Science News

Early Warning: United States to Deploy 32 More Buoys for Sensing Tsunamis

Magazine article Science News

Early Warning: United States to Deploy 32 More Buoys for Sensing Tsunamis

Article excerpt

On Jan. 14, the Bush administration announced a $37.5 million program to expand the nation's tsunami-warning capabilities. The 2-year plan includes placing tsunami-detecting buoys in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea as well staffing around the clock the existing tsunami-warning centers in Alaska and Hawaii. The plan comes on the heels of last month's earthquake-triggered tsunamis that killed at least 160,000 people on shores rimming the Indian Ocean (SN: 1/8/05, p. 19).

Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates a six-buoy warning system in the Pacific Ocean (SN: 3/6/04, p. 152). That's where 85 percent of the world's tsunamis occur, but the massive waves are known to have struck every marine region except the Arctic Ocean. Earthquakes, undersea landslides, volcanic eruptions, and even meteor strikes can trigger tsunamis.

About $13.8 million of the funding announced last week will be spent to procure and install 3:2 pressure sensors on the seafloor to detect passing tsunamis and measure their heights in the open ocean. A buoy near each sensor will relay the information to scientists.

Most of the equipment will be installed around the rim of the Pacific, but seven of the buoys will be deployed in the Atlantic and Caribbean, which aren't now monitored for tsunamis. Although tsunamis in those bodies of water are less frequent than in the Pacific, they aren't unknown. On Nov. 1, 1755, waves spreading from three quakes that occurred beneath the eastern Atlantic destroyed Lisbon, Portugal (SN: 1/3/04, p. …

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