The U.S. needs to upgrade the technology used for its tsunami warning system before its too late, a new report warns. Technology has many uses beyond consumer products, with scientists and governments often leveraging technology to race against climate change and save lives. Advanced solutions help detect all sorts of natural disasters, from earthquakes to tornadoes to extreme temperatures.
The greatest lesson learned after the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004 was the need for an effective early warning system. The Indian Ocean tsunami that killed around 225,000 people hit a dozen countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, and Thailand. Experts say that ocean studies can create an effective early warning system that can save hundreds of thousands of lives.
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As per a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the U.S. tsunami warning system needs a major tech overhaul (via the Washington Post). The current system was found to have gaps, outdated software, delayed alerts, and bad communication-to-public tools, the study by NOAA concluded. The report comes just weeks after the Tonga tsunami hit Fiji, American Samoa, Vanuatu, the U.S. coast, and other countries. “It is not a matter of if, but when the next tsunami will strike the U.S. coastline,” the report warns.
How Ocean Tech Can Save Lives
Tsunamis in the U.S. are more common than believed. Since 2018, according to NOAA, at least 30 tsunamis have been deadly and caused over $1 million in damages in the country. The tsunami expert group calls for investment to create a “comprehensive, enterprise-wide technology upgrade” of the warning system. The major problem the report found was that the two tsunami NOAA centers do not work together or even speak with one voice, often issuing differing recommendations and warnings. The lack of ocean technology is also leading to delays of up to three to four hours to issue evacuation orders. This is a serious risk given that the tsunami-prone areas of the U.S. coastline are populated by millions of people.
The report calls to unify the Tsunami Forecast System centers, invest in technology to detect and observe tsunamis, and develop better forecast and alert systems. Tide gauges, web cameras, real-time devices, and other hardware and software are needed. The experts also want to use airborne vehicles and satellites to keep track of tsunamis. “We feel that these recommendations going forward will not only save lives but potentially millions of dollars,” Rick Wilson, of TSTAP said.