NOAA chief calls for tidal-wave warning system

NOAA's Conrad Lautenbacher

WT file photo

In the wake of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunamis, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Conrad Lautenbacher has renewed his call for a Global Ocean Observing System that could patch together many governments' stovepiped sensors.

"He has been trying to build consensus for that since before he became administrator in 2001," said spokesman Kent Laborde. "It would have multilevel platforms in space and on Earth, as well as decision support tools. Data isn't useful unless it's in a form that local governments can use for decisions."

The global observing system would combine systems with intergovernmental agreements to link and to add new layers where needed, Laborde said.

After seismometers detected the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that could generate tsunamis, NOAA tried to notify Indian Ocean nations of the possibility.

But the agency has no tsunami-sensing buoys there as it does in the Pacific Ocean. NOAA has six sensors along the Pacific coast and tide gauges to identify possible tsunamis.

NOAA's National Weather Service supports tsunami-warning centers for the West Coast, Alaska, the Pacific Rim and the Unesco Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Laborde said it was difficult to estimate the cost of establishing tsunami-warning systems in other nations. But he said there are "multiple parallel systems all over the Earth that don't communicate now."

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