Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Matson, Maersk Partner on Tsunami Detection

By Mark Edward Nero

Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) are using commercial ships operating in the North Pacific Ocean to construct a network of low-cost tsunami sensors to augment existing detection systems.

The researchers, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said Dec. 16 that they’re partnering with Matson, Maersk Line and the World Ocean Council to equip 10 ships with real-time geodetic GPS systems and satellite communications.

The newly built pilot network of GPS-equipped ships enables each vessel to act as an open-ocean tide gauge. Data from the new tsunami sensors are streamed, via satellite, to a land-based data center where they are processed and analyzed for tsunami signals.

“Our approach offers a new, cost-effective way of acquiring many more observations to augment the current detection networks,” said SOEST assistant specialist and co-investigator Todd Ericksen.

The researchers are working with the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers to ensure that the network provides the most useful data products to help them with their predictions. They also plan to work with their industry collaborators to develop a new version of the shipboard package that can be deployed on a much greater number of ships.

“Our new ship-based detection network is the first step towards the creation of the dense global observing network needed to support the efforts of tsunami warning centers to provide the best possible predictions of tsunami hazard to coastal communities,” said James Foster, a SOEST associate researcher and the project’s lead investigator.