Sea Discovery

NOAA Tide Stations Upgraded to Better Detect Tsunamis

NOAA has upgraded 33 tide stations in an effort to detect tsunamis quicker as part of the National Water Level Observation Network. Network tide stations normally equipped to record tidal data once every hour can now collect tidal data every six minutes, and can
transmit that date through NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental satellites (GOES).
The upgraded tide gauges also collect one minute averaged tide data that are available to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. This enhances the tsunami detection and confirmation capability of the centers, allowing forecasters to view real-time data of any station in the network. "Tsunami detection and confirmation can be vital in preventing the loss of human life," said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service. "Efficient data collection is an essential tool to coastal managers for rapid forecasting and the issuance of critical warnings that can help save lives of people in the tsunami's path."
Using special data collection platforms, water level observations from these tide gauges allow NOAA tidal stations to become an integral part of the Pacific tsunami detection and warning network. Tidal data, matched with data from NOAA's Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) network of buoys, will allow NOAA's National Weather Service tsunami warning centers to confirm a tsunami and forecast the magnitude, direction, and speed of a tsunami wave more accurately.
"We have upgraded equipment at the 33 water level stations, and have added 15 new stations in Alaska, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and on the West Coast," said Mike Szabados, director of NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. "Near the end of 2007, NOAA will incorporate all tide gauges on the West, East and Gulf coasts to create an unprecedented array of more than 150 stations."
As part of the President's Ocean Action Plan, NOAA is upgrading all of its National Water Level Observation Network stations to provide real-time data recording and transmission capability, enabling all coastal gauges to detect and transmit tsunami data in real time so that warnings can be issued in a timely manner.
A tsunami is a series of ocean waves created by a sudden displacement of seawater. A local tsunami is the result of an earthquake or other water-displacing event occurring just offshore. People in affected areas may only have minutes to act. Tele-tsunamis
are waves that travel from the source across the open ocean. These may take several hours to reach affected populations. There can be five to 60 minutes between the wave crests, and the first wave may not be the largest. The second wave is often deadlier, as it carries more debris. As tsunamis near the coast, tide gauges can detect their signal and help support local warnings. In addition, as successive tide stations detect a tsunami, that information can be used to improve forecasts of what other coastal locations may be affected. NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services
collects and distributes oceanographic observations and predictions to ensure safe, efficient and environmentally sound maritime commerce. The center provides water level and coastal current oceanographic products, measures and predicts tides throughout the
nation, and is responsible for disseminating this information to the public.
Using technology and innovation to utilize existing observing systems like the NWLON for new applications is a hallmark of the Integrated Ocean Observing System. In addition to supporting the tsunami warning and mitigation program, NWLON data supports safe and efficient navigation, storm surge warnings, hazmat emergency response efforts,
marine boundaries, habitat restoration, long term sea level trends, and other important applications.

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