Undersea communication cables could be used to detect Tsunamis

Tsunamis, similar to those that took the lives of over 200,000 people in  2004, could be detected by underwater sensors which pick up electric fields as they form, according to researchers. Scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claim that such a network would be extremely valuable, however highly expensive to build.  An alternative has been suggested by the organisation, which sya that the existing large network of undersea communication cables could be utilised instead, which could provide early warning systems that work parallel with existing tsunami alert systems.

Scientists explained that seawater conducts electricity and generates an electric field as it travels through the Earth’s geomagnetic field.  The NOAA has made use of computer technology to estimate the size of the electric field as it passed undersea cables, causing the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which affected Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India.  The tsunami killed a total of 140,000 alone in the Indonesian province of Banda Aceh.

Researchers said that it was estimated that the 2004 tsunami induced voltages of about 500 millivolts (mV) in the cables, pointing out that this is very small compared with a 9-volt battery, but still large enough to be distinguished from background noise on a magnetically quiet day.

Tsunami’s can travel at roughly the same pace of a jet aircraft, and have resulted in the past from volcanic eruptions, landslides.  Scientists presently rely on a network of seismometers scattered around the world to detect earthquakes that might trigger tsunamis, however only deep-ocean pressure sensors and coastal tide gauges are the most accurate way of sensing an incoming tsunami wave.


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