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Tsunami researchers might soon be able to generate near real-time tsunami simulations before the deadly waves reach vulnerable coastal regions. Within hours after the powerful 2004 Sumatra earthquake set in motion the huge tsunami, several experts produced accurate and detailed computer animations showing how the deadly waves spread through the Indian Ocean and beyond. The combination of precomputed scenarios of tsunamis generated by underwater quakes and broadband seismographic data could lead to simulations that show which coastal areas are threatened by inundation in time to give a warning. The technology can save many lives when tsunamis strike again, but can also help experts in determining which coastal areas are unsafe for habitation. Real-time tsunami simulations require fast and accurate seismic data, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is building a network of broadband seismic monitoring stations around the world that offer real-time information about ocean basin earthquakes.
Date of Publication: Sept.-Oct. 2005