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NOAA REACHES A CRITICAL MILESTONE IN U.S. TSUNAMI WARNING SYSTEM EXPANSION

NOAA illustration of Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis, or DART, buoy.April 28, 2006 NOAA announced today that it has reached an important milestone in expanding the U.S. tsunami warning system and is better equipped to detect a tsunami and alert communities of the impending danger. (Click NOAA illustration for larger view of Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis, or DART, buoy. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"This marks an important phase in strengthening the U.S. tsunami warning system, which was accelerated following the December 2004 Indian Ocean disaster," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "All facets of NOAA's tsunami program—from research to operations—have been expanded. The result is a nation more prepared to act should a tsunami threaten our shores."

NOAA received $17.2 million in supplemental funding in Fiscal Year 2005 and $9.67 million in Fiscal Year 2006 to expand the U.S. tsunami warning system. The Fiscal Year 2007 budget requests approximately $21 million to complete the plan.

"NOAA has more than 40 years of experience operating an effective tsunami detection network and alerting the public of all hazards. One of our first achievements in enhancing the tsunami warning system was expanding the warning centers' scope of services to provide coverage to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and eastern Canada," added Lautenbacher.

Previously, NOAA's two warning centers—the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, in Palmer, Alaska—depended on staff being available by pager and able to reach the facility within five minutes. NOAA hired 15 employees to staff the centers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Other tsunami warning system expansion milestones, which NOAA has committed to complete by today, include:

New tsunami impact forecast models for nine major U.S. coastal communities at high risk for tsunamis. The NOAA Research models are used to create inundation and evacuation maps for emergency managers and to help NOAA's warning centers forecast tsunamis. Ten models have been completed with seven additional areas underway, with the goal of expanding the geographical coverage of NOAA's Forecast Modeling System to cover a total of 75 U.S. coastal areas, establish international modeling standards and continue improvements to existing forecast models.

Improvement of the quality and accuracy of the long-term archive of tsunami events. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service global database includes information on nearly 2,000 tsunamis from 2000 B.C. to present and is used to identify regions at risk, validate the models, help position detection sensors and prepare for future events. NOAA has quality assured/quality controlled data for 75 percent of the tsunamis that have impacted U.S. coasts and 50 percent of the most deadly global tsunamis. This work entails identifying and documenting the source of past tsunamis; date, time and magnitude of earthquakes; maximum water heights; deaths; and damage.

Installation of nine of 16 new sea-level stations by the NOAA Ocean Service, which has also upgraded 20 of 33 sea-level stations. These automated stations record water level in one-minute intervals, then transmit that data via satellite to the tsunami warning centers. These data become more critical as a tsunami nears the shore. The completed network will consist of 49 stations.

Expansion of the NOAA Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis network from six to 15 DART buoy stations. The stations provide real-time tsunami detection as the waves travel across the open ocean. The original six were all located in the Pacific. The current network consists of ten DART stations in the Pacific and five in the Atlantic/Caribbean. All newly installed stations are a more robust DART II with advanced two-way satellite communication. NOAA expects the network to total 39 DART II buoy stations by the end of March 2008 (32 in the Pacific and seven in the Atlantic Basin).

Recognition of 29 communities as TsunamiReady by the NOAA National Weather Service. NOAA hopes that over the next year, another 20 communities will pursue TsunamiReady—a program that helps communities to prepare evacuation plans, enhance communications and heighten awareness of tsunamis for both residents and visitors.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Tsunami Program

NOAA Tsunamis Page

Media Contact:
Theresa Eisenman, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 150