Seattle leading way in tsunami research

Dec 21, 2005

Seattle now has what may be the world's largest tsunami research center, with a goal of forecasting a major tsunami within 10 minutes of its development.

More than a dozen mathematical modelers and software experts are creating simulations that can predict if a deep-sea earthquake will produce a tsunami, its size and where it will strike, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Wednesday.

Diego Arcas, a forecaster for the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Seattle station, said it currently takes a modeler several months to accumulate and manage all the information needed to create accurate computer models. Then it usually takes about four to five hours to run a full computer simulation for a specific tsunami, he said.

"That's not going to help very many people," Arcas told the Post-Intelligencer. "We are trying to get (the runs) down to less than 10 minutes."

So far the scientists have created real-time tsunami simulations that can be run in minutes for San Francisco, Port Los Angeles and Crescent City, Calif.; Hilo, Hawaii; Kodiak, Alaska; Newport and Seaside in Oregon; Neah Bay and Willapa Bay in Washington.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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