A novel new tsunami detection network using GNSS on commercial ships

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
James H Foster, Todd Ericksen and Jon Avery, University of Hawaii, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, Honolulu, HI, United States
Accurate and rapid detection and assessment of tsunamis in the open ocean is critical for predicting how they will impact distant coastlines, enabling appropriate mitigation efforts. The unexpectedly huge fault slip for the 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake, and the unanticipated type of slip for the 2012 event at Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada highlighted weaknesses in our understanding of earthquake and tsunami hazards, and emphasized the need for more densely-spaced observing capabilities. Crucially, when each sensor is extremely expensive to build, deploy, and maintain, only a limited network of them can be installed. Gaps in the coverage of the network as well as routine outages of instruments, limit the ability of the detection system to accurately characterize events.

Ship-based geodetic GNSS has been demonstrated to be able to detect and measure the properties of tsunamis in the open ocean. Based on this approach, we have used commercial ships operating in the North Pacific to construct a pilot network of low-cost, tsunami sensors to augment the existing detection systems. Partnering with NOAA, Maersk and Matson Navigation, we have equipped 10 ships with high-accuracy GNSS systems running the Trimble RTX high-accuracy real-time positioning service. Satellite communications transmit the position data streams to our shore-side server for processing and analysis. We present preliminary analyses of this novel network, assessing the robustness of the system, the quality of the time-series and the effectiveness of various processing and filtering strategies for retrieving accurate estimates of sea surface height variations for triggering detection and characterization of tsunami in the open ocean.