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NASA demos tsunami prediction system

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Jun 14, 2010
A NASA-led research team says it has successfully demonstrated for the first time elements of a prototype tsunami prediction system.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the system, say it can quickly and accurately assesses large earthquakes and estimate the size of a resulting tsunami.

After February's magnitude 8.8 Chilean earthquake, a JPL team led by Y. Tony Song used real-time data from the agency's Global Differential GPS network to successfully predict the size of the resulting tsunami.

Researchers said the network combines global and regional real-time data from hundreds of GPS sites to detect ground motions as small as a few centimeters.

"This successful test demonstrates coastal GPS systems can effectively be used to predict the size of tsunamis," Song said "This could allow responsible agencies to issue better warnings that can save lives and reduce false alarms that can unnecessarily disturb the lives of coastal residents."

Song's prediction method estimates the energy an undersea earthquake transfers to the ocean to generate a tsunami. Scientists said it relies on data from coastal GPS stations near an epicenter, along with information about the local continental slope -- the descent of the ocean floor from the edge of the continental shelf to the ocean bottom.

Conventional tsunami warning systems rely on estimates of an earthquake's location, depth and magnitude. However, researchers say history has shown earthquake magnitude isn't a reliable indicator of tsunami size.

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Chilean trawler stranded far from the ocean
Coliumo, Chile (AFP) March 28, 2010
One month after Chile's massive earthquake, Captain Cesar Pena is still amazed by the force of the tsunami wave that followed the quake and swept his trawler into a field far from the ocean. His brightly painted ship, the "Aguila Real II" (Royal Eagle II), is wedged between two trees some five kilometers (three miles) inland from Coliumo, a coastal town in southern Chile. Pena was ready ... read more

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