Newer technology helps advance tsunami research

PTWC technology
PTWC technology

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Saturday morning, causing some concerns.

But it took just minutes for the scientists at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to determine that the Solomon Islands quake posed no tsunami threat for Hawaii. How is that possible?

“For starters, there’s a lot more instrumentation at our disposal so we get more data more quickly. For example, today we’re pulling in seismic data from 450 instruments distributed around the world maintained by various network operators.” Tsunami Center Assistant Director Stuart Weinstein said.

It was only a few years ago, Weinstein says, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was lucky to have just two dozen reporting stations around the world…let alone along what’s called the Pacific Ring of fire. Hawaii is isolated in the middle of the Pacific, so earthquakes along that ring of fire obviously get our attention. And it comes to our attention, there have been more quakes in recent days.

“There seems to be a fair amount of activity in the last couple of weeks with what’s been happening in Chile, and the other day we had some earthquakes off the coast of Nicaragua which were 6’s. And today in the Solomons, Santa Cruz islands area.” Weinstein said.

Just across the street from the warning center, families were enjoying a day at the beach. We wondered if there was concern about a potential tsunami.

“You know, with all the technology that we have today, all the tsunamis and all the alerts, so with us being here, we want to make sure that everyone’s safe.” Ewa resident Lawakua Gabriel said.

Weinstein says the recent rash of earthquakes are not necessarily related. The Pacific is the largest ocean on the planet and the land masses surrounding the ocean are always subject to movement.

“And so it’s not terribly surprising that we may have great earthquakes in different regions of the ring of fire so to speak that occur in relative close proximity with respect to time.” Weinstein said.

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