Strong Indonesian earthquakes test new tsunami systems - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Strong Indonesian earthquakes test new tsunami systems

Panic struck Indonesia after two huge earthquakes with magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2. Panic struck Indonesia after two huge earthquakes with magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2.
Gerard Fryer, Ph.D. Gerard Fryer, Ph.D.
Charles McCreery, Ph.D. Charles McCreery, Ph.D.
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - Panic struck Indonesia after two huge earthquakes with magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2.  Fortunately after about 30 minutes scientists in Hawaii knew there would not be a damaging tsunami.

"It was a weird event, a weird weird event," said Gerard Fryer, Ph.D., Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Weird because it was huge but not in a typical spot and it was far offshore which limited the damage. There were no reports of fatalities.

"Every time there is a new big earthquake we learn stuff we didn't know.  You think you understand and wham something happens," said Fryer.

Still they are pleased with the advancements made since the catastrophic earthquake of 2004 that killed 230,000 people.  Technology and science is much better.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach helped warn dozens of countries in the Indian Ocean region within six minutes for this latest quake instead of 15 to 20.

"We have many many more instruments coming in, more bandwidth, much more information and that speeds us up.  We know very quickly what's happening," said Fryer.  "We also have a much more reliable measure of really big earthquakes. We get them to within about two-tenths of a magnitude."

Scientists also knew right away that this was not the damaging deep thrust type of quake.  Instead it was a strike slip quake meaning much less contact and a much smaller wave.

"The slip along the fault is in a horizontal direction versus a vertical direction then the sea floor may move sideways but it is not going to lift up and cause the whole ocean to move up or to move down," said Charles McCreery, Ph.D., Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Director.

To give you an idea of how powerful today's earthquake was the seismic vibrations made it to the other end of earth in just 26 minutes.  It is also the most powerful strike slip earthquake ever recorded at a magnitude of 8.6. For perspective the San Andreas Fault in California can only produce a maximum 8.0 strike slip earthquake.

"I hate to say this because I think it was traumatic for a lot of people but it was a really good test for all of the countries bringing up their warning systems," said Fryer. "Test everything and make sure it works."

Hawaii will still continue warning the Indian Ocean region but it is starting to phase out as the lead agency as those countries develop their own warning systems.

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