US: A NASA-led research team has demonstrated a prototype for an improved GPS-based tsunami prediction system. The agency said that the team, led by Y. Tony Song of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, used real-time data from the agency’s Global Differential GPS (GDGPS) network to successfully predict the size of the tsunami triggered by the February 27 magnitude-8.8 Chilean earthquake.
The network, managed by JPL, can detect ground motions as small as a few centimetres. Song said, “This successful test demonstrates that coastal GPS systems can effectively be used to predict the size of tsunamis. This could allow responsible agencies to issue better warnings that can save lives and reduce false alarms that can unnecessarily disturb the lives of coastal residents.”
Song’s team concluded that the Chilean earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded by instruments, would generate a moderate, or local, tsunami unlikely to cause significant destruction in the Pacific. The tsunami’s effect was relatively small outside of Chile.
Song’s GPS-based prediction was later confirmed using sea surface height measurements from the joint NASA/French Space Agency Jason-1 and Jason-2 altimetry satellites. This work was partially carried out by researchers at Ohio State University, Columbus.