Neptune Canada director Kate Moran with the bottom pressure recorder device that will help measure the speed and direction of tsunamis in the deep ocean near Vancouver Island.

UVic scientists install early warning system for tsunamis

About 300 kilometres from the coast of Vancouver Island, a tsunami early warning system will soon be draped along the sea floor.

About 300 kilometres from the coast of Vancouver Island at a location dubbed Endeavor Ridge, a one-of-a-kind tsunami early warning system will soon be draped along the sea floor.

From above, X will mark the spot more than 2,000 metres below, as four ultra-sensitive pressure devices, each at the end of a 25-kilometre fibre optic cable, feed data through the Neptune system and to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Network.

Laying sausage-thick cable at 2000 metres down is painfully slow, delicate business, but it will give scientists and emergency authorities, for the first time, the direction and speed of tsunamis in the deep ocean, in real time.

“These kind of instruments do double duty,” says Kate Moran, director of Neptune Canada, a consortium of universities led by the University of Victoria. “They help us understand the physics of the ocean and also contribute to public safety.”

The giant, $3-million tsunami “antenna” will be plugged into the Neptune system, an 800-kilometre loop of powered fibre optic cable linked by 13-tonne nodes and feeding into hundreds of underwater scientific instruments. All data is streamed live through the Internet.

The tsunami device works by using extremely sensitive pressure transducers spread in a star formation. For this trip, two of the four will be installed this month, and the remainder in September. They also plan to install the pressure devices on Neptune’s sister, Venus, a cable network in the Saanich Inlet and the mouth of the Fraser River.

Moran noted that tsunamis barely cause a blip in wave height in the deep ocean, but, as well documented in disasters in Japan and the Indian Ocean, waves can reach the coast as an unstoppable wall of water.

Prototypes of the pressure device detected tsunamis near Chile in 2010 and Samoa in 2009. Moran said this device will give ocean scientists data to improve models for predicting tsunami speed, direction and intensity after an earthquake. It could also act as an early warning system for Vancouver Island.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates a ring of buoys in the Pacific to provide tsunami early warning data. Moran hopes the tsunami antenna plugged into Neptune will help improve on that.

“We’ve tested the prototype. Now we’ll install the real McCoy,” said Moran, a tsunami expert who once served as a science advisor for the Obama administration. “We’ll collect data and continue to improve predictions of wave impacts on Vancouver Island.”

Laying the fibre optic cable involves spooling it off the 274-foot research vessel Thomas G. Thompson, and guiding it on the seafloor using a remotely operated submarine called an ROV. The ROV lays the cable and plugs it into the pressure device and a junction box on the Neptune network.

“Laying cable with the ROV is very tricky because the ship is always moving, and you’ve got to follow the ROV,” Moran said. “It takes a long time. It’s a dance between the ship and ROV in two kilometres of water.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

With $4M investment, Camosun College offers first sonography program on Vancouver Island

Starting in May 2020 students from Vancouver Island can pursue a career in sonography

Greater Victoria developer rushes to demolish historic wall before Oak Bay applies heritage permit

Abstract Development punches holes in one of Oak Bay’s oldest stone walls

School district launches survey for George Jay Elementary name change

The Greater Victoria School District wants to take public cues before decisions are made

$775-million wastewater project on track to be completed on time, within new budget

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins praises public education aspect of project

Regional naturalists cook up four spook-tacular forest events

CRD’s kid-friendly events feature Halloween activites, costume contest, guided walks

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

Campbell River homicide suspects arrested in Vancouver

Two men remain in custody, but have not been charged

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Elizabeth May confirms plan to eliminate fish farming in open ocean pens

Green Party leader stops in Qualicum Beach as part of Island campaign

STRIKE: WFP and USW are back at the table for mediation

“No further updates until either an agreement is reached or one party or the other breaks off talks”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May rolls through Vancouver Island to boost a party stronghold

Mocks media, evokes Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and promises change

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Most Read