Mānoa: UH leads underwater early warning system for earthquake and tsunami

University of Hawaii at Mānoa


Submarine telecommunications cables span the globe; could host oceanic / geophysical sensors.
SMART international cable route project between Lifou, New Caledonia and Tanna, Vanuatu.
SMART international cable route project between Lifou, New Caledonia and Tanna, Vanuatu.
The ALOHA wired observatory supports sensors to monitor the deep waters off Hawaii.  Credit: ACO / UHM
The ALOHA wired observatory supports sensors to monitor the deep waters off Hawaii. Credit: ACO / UHM
The ALOHA wired observatory supports sensors to monitor the deep waters off Hawaii.  Credit: ACO / UHM
The ALOHA wired observatory supports sensors to monitor the deep waters off Hawaii. Credit: ACO / UHM

The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa is leading an effort to advance a global network of smart cables on the seabed and develop early warning systems for tsunamis and earthquakes around Vanuatu and Nova Scotia. Caledonia. The international team received more than $ 7 million in support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“Through this project, we are developing a new capacity for ocean and Earth observation – sensors embedded in submarine telecommunications cables – and developing scientific simulations and protocols to provide early warning to earthquakes. earthquakes and tsunamis, “said Bruce howe, principal investigator of the new grant and professor of Ocean and resource engineering in the School of Earth and Ocean Science and Technology (SOEST).

the Reliable Scientific Surveillance and Telecommunications Submarine Cables (SMART) initiative is gaining momentum all over the world. This effort aims to integrate ocean temperature, pressure and seismic sensors into commercial submarine telecommunications systems that crisscross the ocean floor. As new systems are installed, researchers and communities hope to cost-effectively transform the current telecommunications network into a combined network of oceanic, climate and geophysical sensors on a planetary scale, capable of informing the systems. early warning.

“This brilliant project will transform the practical cables that link communications and commerce into a global scientific instrument of paramount importance to every person on Earth. We are delighted to help the University of Hawai’i launch this game-changing effort, ”said Robert Kirshner, Scientific Program Manager at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Bridging the gap

The overarching goal of the newly funded five-year project is to help bridge the perilous gap between concept and implementation. The team aims to make the integration of sensors into submarine telecommunications cables the global standard, leading to a global network for continuous ocean observation, geophysical study of earthquakes and warning. to earthquakes and tsunamis in a world where sea levels are rising.

To achieve this, the team will pave the way for the scientific and early warning use of submarine cables through pre-deployment observing system simulations, post-deployment data analysis and a sustained scientific operation. .

They will apply the results of the simulations to optimize the proposed Vanuatu-New Caledonia cable system and its operation. This will demonstrate the capability of the SMART sensor-based earthquake and tsunami early warning system in one of the most disaster prone countries in the world due to its location in the seismically active “Ring of Fire”. .

An important aspect of the project is to train staff in the region to increase local expertise in related sciences, data management to create early warning and forecasting, and telecommunication processes. Included are workshops and courses for Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department professionals and the funding of graduate student training National University of Vanuatu, UH Mānoa and partner institutions, providing the scientific and technical basis for a sustainable observing system.

“Having a strong workforce is essential to prepare the new SMART cable system,” Howe said. “This will ensure the functioning and maintenance of early warning systems, which will help mitigate the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. “

Finally, the project will support the international projects office of the Joint Working Group Scientific Surveillance and Reliable Telecommunications Cables, working to facilitate the adoption of scientific sensors in all new submarine telecommunications cables to reach a global scale. This joint working group, approved by the United Nations Oceanic Decade for Sustainable Development, is sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union, the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

Reduce risk through science, innovation and partnership

“Ideally, incorporating SMART capability would become a routine function for the submarine cable industry,” Howe said. “Achieving this goal will generate key reductions in human and planetary risk. We hope this project will be a demonstration to the global audience of how communities and science can benefit from SMART cables.

Obtaining the new funding required local and international collaboration. UH Foundation facilitated the work with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, bringing the project headquarters to UH Mānoa.

Project partners include: in the United States, University of Texas – Austin, Louisiana State University, California Institute of Technology, Underwater data systems and Los Alamos National Laboratory; in the South Pacific University of Otago (New Zealand), French Institute for Research and Sustainable Development, National University of Vanuatu, Department of Meteorology and Geohazards of Vanuatu and The Pacific Community (CPS); and the International Tsunami Information Center.

About the Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation encourages innovative scientific discovery, conservation of the environment, improved patient care and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. This research is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through grant GBMF10787 at the University of Hawaii. Visit Moore.org or follow @MooreFound for more information.

About the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

the School of Earth and Ocean Science and Technology to University of Hawaii at Mānoa was established by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents in 1988 in recognition of the need to realign and further strengthen the excellent teaching and research resources available within the University. SOEST brings together four academic departments, several research institutes, several federal cooperation programs and the nation’s highest quality support facilities to meet the challenges of ocean, land and planetary science and technology.

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