Home | Contact ST  
Follow ST

Feature Article

Using Social Networking, Mobile Apps To Distribute Tsunami Hazard Information
Platforms Drawing on IOOS, Regional Coastal System Data Provide Local Stakeholders with Water Levels, Inundation Warnings in Tsunamis

By Dr. Jonathan Allan
Coastal Section Leader
Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Newport, Oregon

Dr. David L. Martin
Associate Director
Dr. Jan Newton
Principal Oceanographer
Applied Physics Laboratory
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

NANOOS developed a free NVS mobile application for iPhone and Android devices. (Bottom) NANOOS's free tsunami evacuation zone mobile application.
The need for timely and accurate coastal hazard information was powerfully demonstrated on March 10, 2011, when a magnitude-9 earthquake occurred 129 kilometers off the coast of Sendai, Japan. The fourth largest recorded earthquake triggered a catastrophic tsunami that killed 15,846 and injured 6,011 people, while another 3,320 remain missing. The tsunami inundation wave height reached 19.5 meters on the Sendai Plain, traveling as much as 5 kilometers inland, while the maximum run-up reached 39.7 meters along the Sanriku coast. The tsunami traveled eastward across the Pacific Ocean, eventually impacting coastal communities in Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast.

Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoys in the Pacific Ocean provided real-time data of the impending tsunami as it propagated across the ocean. These data provided critical information to the Pacific and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centers of NOAA, helping to calibrate and improve their model predictions, timing and ultimately their warnings to coastal communities. Because of this, coastal communities in Washington and Oregon were on guard by the time the tsunami arrived some 9.5 hours after the temblor. Harbors along the Oregon coast—including Depoe Bay and Brookings—and in Crescent City, California, reported damage to their docks and boats that amounted to millions of dollars. If warnings had not been issued, there would have been a potential for significantly greater damage.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS), serves as the association that manages and operates the regional coastal ocean observing system (RCOOS) under the auspices of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). NANOOS provided considerable information to the public about the timing and severity of the tsunami and government agency-recommended actions to take. These included providing Web-based access to tsunami evacuation zones developed for the Oregon Coast, enabling users of the NANOOS Visualization System (NVS) to gain easy access to near real-time surface current, wave height, water levels and other information from real-time instruments owned by the National Data Buoy Center, National Ocean Service and NANOOS. In addition, NANOOS posted regular Facebook updates regarding the tsunami passage, including views of water levels at sites along the coast and the observed impacts in affected communities.

With its extreme impacts along Japan's coast, the Tohoku event serves as a reminder of the U.S. West Coast's vulnerability to another earthquake source within the Pacific's Ring of Fire, the Cascadia subduction zone that stretches from Cape Mendocino in northern California, northward along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. On January 26, 1700, a magnitude-9 earthquake occurred, generating tsunami waves that swept across the shores of the Pacific Northwest. A mirror of the recent Tohoku event, the tsunami progressed westward across the ocean and eventually struck the shores of Japan. The recurrence of another magnitude-9 event, estimated to have a 10 percent probability in the next 30 years, on the Cascadia subduction zone, poses a great threat to the U.S. West Coast, highlighting the need for hazard information available to the public to plan for such events.

NANOOS Capabilities
NANOOS is the regional association for Oregon and Washington and maintains strong ties with observing programs in Alaska, British Columbia, and central and northern California. The primary mission of NANOOS is to coordinate and support the development, implementation and operations of an RCOOS that can provide Pacific Northwest stakeholders with the ocean data, tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

To provide the necessary data, NANOOS members designed an RCOOS focused on several observing capacities, including high-frequency radar nodes that map surface currents offshore the Oregon coast; in-situ sensor observation capacity in major estuaries; AUVs; in-situ measurements of oceanographic variables on the continental shelf; monitoring of beach, shoreline and nearshore (bathymetric) morphodynamics; short-wave monitoring using X-band radar; and implementation of ocean circulation and estuarine modeling. These capabilities are supported by a network of federally maintained coastal and oceanographic assets that form the 'backbone' infrastructure for each of the regional associations. Data collected by these disparate assets must be measured at appropriate time and space scales, integrated and delivered in suitable formats to meet societal needs, including addressing major coastal disasters.

To access any of Sea Technology's feature articles in their entirety
prior to our August 2012 issue, please contact us directly at
seatechads@sea-technology.com or +703 524 3136.

Dr. Jonathan Allan is a coastal geomorphologist and the coastal section leader at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. He is the chair of the users products committee for the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems. His research interests include beach process dynamics, coastal engineering structural effects, wave climate changes and shoreline management.

Dr. David L. Martin is an associate director at the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington and is chair of the NANOOS governing board. As a U.S. Navy captain, he was the first Director of Ocean, the federal interagency office for developing the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

Dr. Jan Newton is a principal oceanographer with the Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington. She is the executive director for the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, the Pacific Northwest regional association for the U.S. component of the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

-back to top-

-back to to Features Index-

Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.