New system gives tsunami warnings in real time, Georgia Tech scientists say
RTerg could help give early warnings to victims of a tsunami, like the one that struck Sumatra, scientists say.
March 5th, 2011
11:53 AM ET

New system gives tsunami warnings in real time, Georgia Tech scientists say

In more than one way a tsunami comes out of the blue.

Mammoth waves generated by a sub-sea earthquake can sneak upon a shoreline and wreak havoc upon unaware coastal residents in minutes.

But a new tsunami warning system developed by Georgia Tech seismologists has the potential to save lives by giving residents more time to get out of harm's way, according to Andrew Newman, assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The system, known as RTerg, aims to measure and identify tsunamis in real time, Newman told CNN Saturday.

"I do have a version that runs and is used and funded by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), but it’s still in a testing phase," Newman said.

The automated system analyzes data and sends out real-time alerts via emails and text messages to more than 100 organizations around the world that record seismic activity, including the U.S. Geological Survey.

RTerg (which stands for real time plus the description for a unit of energy) works by using algorithmic tools that measure not only a quake's magnitude, but the speed of the vertical push generated by tectonic activity, Newman said.

“Because tsunami earthquakes rupture in a shallow environment, we can't simply use a measurement of magnitude to determine which ones will create large waves,” Newman is quoted as saying in a university press release. “When they occur, people often don't feel that they're significant, if they even feel them in the first place, because they seem like they're an order of magnitude smaller than they actually are.”

The system was tested during the Sumatran earthquake of 2010, identifying the quake as a potential tsunami in a little more than eight minutes, Newman said.

“Using this system, we could in the future warn local populations, thus minimizing the death toll from tsunamis,” Newman said in the release.

The findings, outlined in a new study, hold promise for far-lying, quake-prone regions around the world that struggle to relay information about earthquakes.

The Georgia Tech study appears in the March 5 edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

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Filed under: Earthquake • Tsunami
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    @Angyman: I want you with me, roasted on a stick. I am a cannibol.

    March 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. thesaneone

    If you ask me tsunamis are created by the government in order to keep control. (Somehow even I don't believe that)

    March 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
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