Buoys may need relocating after Saturday's tsunami

Buoys may need relocating after Saturday's tsunami
Published: Oct. 30, 2012 at 8:38 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 30, 2012 at 10:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - DART buoys are deep ocean devices that can detect and measure tsunami waves.

"We have buoys all around the Pacific off of these major seismic zones that are subduction zones," said Chip McCreery, pointing at a ring of red dots on a map.

The director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said NOAA has 32 DART buoys strategically placed in the Pacific Ocean, but none in the area of Saturday's earthquake.

"That particular region of the world doesn't tend to have the type of earthquakes that generate tsunamis," he said.

The region stretches from southern British Columbia up to Alaska. Having a DART buoy there would have given Pacific Tsunami Warning Center scientists quicker notification of a tsunami and real time measurement of the wave height.

"The biggest amplitudes came right down here directly at Hawaii. Aside from the local zone we had the highest threat." McCreery said.

Scientists said the 7.7 quake was the strongest one in more than sixty years in the region off Canada's coastline. But that couldn't have been predicted.

"When we position these things around the Pacific, we'd like to know where the next big earthquake would occur, and we would put them in those spots. But we never know that. Unfortunately, for this particular event we didn't have buoys in the right place," McCreery said.

He said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, its counterpart in Alaska, NOAA headquarters and the National Data Buoy Center will talk about moving a dart buoy to the blind spot.

"That will definitely be high on the list of things to discuss," he said. "Can we reposition something off of that area given that now we know it's a tsunami-genic zone?"

But it's a balancing act. You don't want to move a buoy and leave yourself vulnerable in another area.

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