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.”



Just Posted

Victoria painter splashes some colour on a dreary situation

Six-week long James Bay construction project gives Teresa Waclawik an impromptu canvas

Bike sharing program rolls into Saanich

According to staff, U-Bicycle plans to make between 75 and 100 bicycles available in Saanich.

Saanich Police speed reader board stolen

Traffic safety device taken from the 4700 block of Interurban Road

Man arrested, charged in connection with stabbing at Langford Lanes

Twenty-year-old Austin Bonner has been charged with aggravated assault

Group calls for limited access to backcountry roads near Jordan River

Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association says closures would limit misuse of woods

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

City of Victoria seeks artists to contribute to upcoming public exhibitions

Submissions for Commercial Alley gallery, bus shelter project due by April 9

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Central Saanich fire causes ‘extensive damage’ to home

All three Saanich Peninsula fire departments responded to a structure fire on… Continue reading

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Most Read