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Author Topic: What are our options for tsunami & earthquake early warning systems  (Read 5794 times)

Paul Anderson

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Paul Anderson  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hi Chris and team,

With the recent tsunami in the Samoas, there has been criticism of the Civil Defence not warning us early enough. As it turned out, we were okay in NZ.

I recently heard on one of your programmes about seals or dolphins with electronic gear on their heads transmitting data to satellites. Could dolphins or other sea life be used as an early warning option? Someone will say that the dolphins will not stay between us and Samoa or wherever. Okay, second suggestion.

Could someone devise a buoy which used GPS to float in the same place in the middle of the ocean, with solar power to activate correctional motors or sails, and this buoy would supply data to a satellite about sea conditions. It should be ruggedly designed so if it gets hit by a vessel it just bounces out of the way and then re-sets itself. Someone is now going to mention great ocean currents! Okay so I need to get up a map of the ocean currents and see if we can get these   buoys positioned to the side of strong currents, e.g. rubbish bobbing up and down near the banks of rivers while the main thrust of the river is downhill.

Would a fish know whether it was swimming in normal water or water from a tsunami? Salmon in Canada swim upstream to spawn, so there must be some fishy intellectual activity going on there while they are struggling to swim upstream. When there is an underwater earthquake what do the fish in that vicinity do or have they already sensed something and cleared out? In Samoa last week there were fish thrown up onto the roads, but they would not necessarily have been fish from the epicentre.

There are a number of methods being used to search for oil. Cannot some of these techniques be used to help predict earthquakes? There is destructive testing down for cars and planes. Is it just too complex to assess because of the range of soils and rocks, etc that are in the vicinity of earthquake zones?
  
If one made a physical or computer model of two of the earth's plates, how can one be sure the what happens in the model is what happens in real life with the greater size of the actual plates? Just because something of a particular size snaps at a certain point how can scientists be sure that scaling everything up to full size will get the same result?
  
I must rush off to work,
  
Regards
  
Paul
NZ

What do you think?


 

Offline litespeed

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Hi Paul,

Tsunami warning systems have been in place in the North Pacific for decades, and are now being installed elsewhere as a result of the 1984 catastrophy. They consist, to a large extent, of sea buoys with radio warnings for unusual events. 

Further, tsunamis are generally the result of earth quakes.  Accordingly, seismic stations are now better connected into world-wide alert systems. It is my understanding that various seismic stations attempted to alert for the 1984 event, but did not have so much as an area code to call on with their cell phones. I seem to recall some resorted to calling various embassies in their attempts.

Earthquake predictions are not yet perfected, but are getting closer by the day. Although it is true various animal species seem attuned to earthquakes, the mechanisms they use are becoming better understood. Specifically, most earthquakes are preceded by various electromagnet and sonic precursers.

However, these indications and warnings are not yet, and may never be, accurate enough to justify total disruption of specific geographical areas on the imminence of earthquake activity. To this day the best defense against earthquakes include building codes, and disaster preperation.
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Could someone devise a buoy which used GPS to float in the same place in the middle of the ocean, with solar power to activate correctional motors or sails, and this buoy would supply data to a satellite about sea conditions.

Couldn't you just anchor it?
 

Offline LeeE

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Seals or dolphins wouldn't make good early warning sensors as you couldn't guarantee they were in the right place.  You'd also need to catch them first, then devise suitable mobile instruments to fit to the animals, which won't easily come off whilst allowing the the animal to feed normally.  I don't think you'd be able to rely upon solar power to drive the instruments as the panels would be too prone to damage and the the build up of biological surface coatings, reducing their efficiency, which isn't too good as it is, so you'd also have to regularly re-catch the animals to change their batteries.  The smaller seals are also prone to being eaten.
 

Offline doppler1

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How different is a Tsunami from a Big wave in the open water? Would it be noticeably bigger wave as far as height is concerned?
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Possibly not, it would be the wavelength that is big
 

Offline doppler1

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If it is not bigger as far as height is concerned, how does the warning system work and what does it monitor for signs of trouble?
 

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