Tsunami scientists better equipped

Gerard Fryer
Gerard Fryer

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center used last year's deadly Samoa tsunami as a learning tool.

Scientists installed a red telephone three months ago that connects the center to Pago Pago, providing a fast way to issue tsunami warnings.

"We want to just pick up the phone and be talking to them so that's why we have the hotline," geophysicist Gerard Fryer said.

Other enhancements include steps to add more than a dozen additional measuring devices to the region surrounding Samoa.

A year ago there were only five seismometers there.

The machines transmit data on an earthquake's strength and location. The more seismometers in a region the quicker and more accurate the tsunami information.

"So you basically point all those things back at where the earthquake is and you figure out where it is," Fryer said.

The warning center also created a computer program that models a triggered tsunami on screen.

"This tells us how high the tsunami is going to be on the open ocean," Fryer said.

The fourth enhancement was to the center's operations during a tsunami alert.

Instead of trying to accumulate every ounce of information, scientists have scaled back.

"In the warning game, pretty good is good enough," Fryer said. "Just by speeding up the way we analyze things, we're probably knocking off one to two minutes."

In the case of a tsunami threat, one to two minutes could be the difference between life and death.

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