Tsunami Airglow Signature Could Lead to Early Detection System

According to a www.sciencedaily.com report, University of Illinois researchers used a camera system based in Maui, Hawaii, to record an airglow signature in the upper atmosphere produced by a tsunami. This is reportedly the first time this has been done to date.

The signature was caused by the March 11 Japan earthquake that and was observed in an airglow layer 250 kilometers above Earth’s surface. “It preceded the tsunami by one hour, suggesting that the technology could be used as an early-warning system in the future,” according to Science Daily. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters.

“Imaging the response using the airglow is much more difficult because the window of opportunity for making the observations is so narrow, and had never been achieved before,” said Jonathan Makela, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and researcher in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, as quoted on www.sciencedaily.com. “Our camera happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Makela analyzed the images, along with graduate student Thomas Gehrels. They were able to isolate specific wave periods and orientations. In collaboration with researchers at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris; CEA-DAM-DIF in France; Instituto Nacional de Pesquisais Espaciais (INPE) in Brazil; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and NOVELTIS in France, the researchers determined that “the wave properties matched those in the ocean-level tsunami measurements, confirming that the pattern originated from the tsunami. The team also cross-checked their data against theoretical models and measurements made using GPS receivers.”

Makela revealed that camera systems could be a significant tool in creating an early-warning tsunami system. To create a reliable system, according to Makela, scientists would have to develop algorithms that could analyze and filter data in real time. The best solution would also include ground-based cameras and GPS receivers working with the satellite-based.

For more information about the University of Illinois discovery, visit: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714091935.htm