Tsunami Alert System For WA

In Australasia, Earthquakes & Tsunamis, News Headlines, Scientific Reports

In the next few months, Australian scientists will activate a world-first tsunami warning system in the remote East Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Geoscience Australia says the device will be able to track earthquakes off Indonesia in real time, which will make accurate tsunami predictions possible.

In the hot and dusty ranges of the inland Pilbara, about an hour by four-wheel drive from Marble Bar, technicians have been installing the new seismic system.

Thirteen boreholes have been drilled over a 26-square kilometre area.

Lowered into them, 30 metres down, are a series of seismometers and supporting equipment.

“The sensors are only down about 15 metres, about halfway just to keep an eye on the stability of the borehole,” one of the technicians said.

They will monitor earthquakes that happen around the Indian Ocean, but particularly along the Indonesian archipelago.

When and where
It is a world-first system, the first seismic array designed specifically to predict both when tsunamis may happen, but also where they may hit.

Readings from the tearing of the Earth will be beamed, in real time, back to the tsunami warning centre in Melbourne and Geoscience Australia in Canberra.

It is all powered by solar cells with battery backup.

“The system is pretty good. We believe it’s all solar-powered,” said Lindsay Miller, one of the technicians working on the project.

“Their batteries will hold the elements up for at least 14 days if not longer and as for the central facilities, the batteries are a lot bigger there because of the satellite links and they will hold it up again for the same period of time.

“So for the chances of losing sunlight for that period of time is extremely rare I would say so we shouldn’t have any issues with power outages.”

Mr Miller says the only real problems so far have been with curious feral camels intent on chewing on the cables.

“We’ve had five or six we’ve spotted up this way. They’re quite intrigued and curious I think,” he said.

“One of them was hoping that we’d open the gate to let it through into the property so we had to kind of shoo it away. It seemed to be a bit annoyed about that idea.”

Impact on Australia
Back at Geoscience Australia headquarters, Professor Phil Cummins and other scientists are eagerly awaiting the project’s completion.

“It is very significant from the point of view of it being the first array that’s been established specifically for the purpose of supporting a tsunami warning system,” Professor Cummins said.

“An array is distinct from a station that has a signal sensor in that it doesn’t only see the incoming wave, but it can also track the direction of the incoming energy.

“So as energy comes into the sensors it can track from which [direction] that energy is coming and that will let us map out the rupture from some of these large earthquakes that might occur to our north or even elsewhere.

“What this will tell us is how wide, how far does the rupture spread and in which direction and that can be very important in trying to project what its impact will be on Australia.”

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