These undersea cables can improve tsunami detection

These undersea cables can improve tsunami detection

These undersea cables can improve tsunami detection

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And if the technology comes to Vanuatu and neighboring island nation New Caledonia, it could mean a big change in public safety. The two small countries are separated by an area where one section of the ocean floor actively sinks beneath another, causing those frequent earthquakes and tsunamis. Residents may have minutes or even seconds to respond to a tsunami warning. According to new modeling from the working group, presented at the American Geophysical Union conference in Chicago in December, a SMART cable across this “subduction zone” could extend that time to 12 minutes. It would also provide a second broadband connection to the outside world for Vanuatu, reducing the risk of communications blackouts like the one that occurred in Tonga last year when a volcanic eruption severed that country’s only telecommunications cable. .


“If we can give a community even five or ten minutes of extra time, it can make a huge difference,” says Laura Kong, task force member and director of the International Tsunami Information Center, a joint effort of UNESCO and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers have high hopes and big plans for SMART cables. In addition to the idea of ​​a Vanuatu-New Caledonia cable, they are proposing projects in New Zealand, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and even Antarctica.

“This is a first step in realizing a long-term vision of seafloor instrumentation for climate and early warning purposes,” says Howe. “It’s the first time the deep ocean has somehow opened up in this way.”

Christian Elliot is a Chicago-based freelance science journalist.


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