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Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

     Fact sheetIn Focus: Tsunami Relief

January 14, 2005

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about the tragic Indian Ocean tsunami and what action we are taking to protect and assist our citizens and people throughout the world. More than one-half of the people in the United States live along the coast and approximately 180 million people vacation and recreate there every year. They carry on with their lives much the same as the citizens of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and others before life was so tragically altered without warning by a tsunami. The plan the Administration of President Bush announced today casts a safety net across the seas to give citizens ample warning and time to respond to a Tsunami.

Aaron, from New york city writes:
please give me the background details of the warning system the US had before and the new improvements now.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
The current system consists of six deep-sea DART (Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) buoys and other sensors in the Pacific Ocean and two warning centers in Alaska and Hawaii that monitor the system. The new system outlined today will see the installation of new observing systems in the Pacific, Caribbean/Atlantic to improve detection of tsunami events. NOAA will also expand its operational capability to provide accurate and timely warnings of tsunami events to the U.S. public and international partners. There will be expanded local and international efforts to improve preparedness and planning for tsunami events. NOAA will also invest in new research to improve understanding of tsunamis and research new observing technologies.

The upgrade system will include 32 new DART tsunami buoys and 38 new sea level monitoring/tide gauge stations. There will be 24/7 warning coverage at the Pacific and Alaska Tsunami Centers as well as upgrades to 20 seismometers used to monitor seismic events in tsunami prone areas. NOAA will also expand the Tsunami Ready program to improve community preparedness and begin Tsunami Inundation Mapping in the Caribbean/Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico and expand the current Pacific program.

Clint, from MAINE writes:
I've heard satellites can help detect bad weather patterns like tsunamis. Is this true? Even if they can, would they have been able to detect the earthquake that caused the last one?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Satellites are used in a limited way to gauge the level of the ocean, but tsunami's are waves that move at the floor of the ocean, along the sea bottom. The best observation system available today is the deep sea DART (Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) buoys developed by NOAA. This technology has only been operational for a few years and it's being upgraded and improved to provide more precise and faster detection and warning. Earthquake detection really relies on data provided from a global and national network of seismic stations operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Science Foundation, NOAA and a score of academic and international organizations. This information is used with that gathered by DART buoys to predict when a tsunami is triggered and where it may travel.

Recently after reviewing data from four Earth-orbiting radar satellites, NOAA scientists discovered they were able to measure the height of the devastating tsunami that erupted in the Indian Ocean. At this time we are not able to use this data in real time to supplement the forecasts of tsunamis, however, the ability to make depth surveys from space may lead to improvements in the models that forecast the hazardous effects of tsunamis.

Jon, from West Virginia writes:
Dear Admiral, Does your Administration track tsunamis? If so how was this one not caught?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
The NOAA Tsunami Warning Program provides tsunami warnings for the West Coast of the U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Insular States of Micronesia, and countries in the Pacific Basin. NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii is the operational center for the International Tsunami Warning System of the Pacific, comprised of 26 Member States around the Pacific Rim. The Center issues tsunami warnings for Pacific Basin teletsunamis (tsunamis that can cause damage far away from their source). If a seismic event occurs off the coast of Japan, Japan issues a local tsunami warning. It is the Pacific Center’s responsibility to warn all participating Nations in the Pacific Basin if the Japanese tsunami will cause damage far away from its source.

The Indian Ocean is one of the areas without a warning system. Southeast Asia, the southwest Pacific, Central and South America, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean have no regional tsunami warning centers. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has recognized these gaps and has a number of initiatives to address this hazard. These include recommendations to establish Regional Tsunami Warning Systems for those areas. This one was not caught because it happened in one of the areas lacking a warning system.

Heather, from Washington DC writes:
Is there still a way we can help tsunami victims? I would like to help, but haven't yet. Also, with our updated system, will this only help americans but the rest of the world?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
There are scores of national and international relief organizations that would greatly appreciate any assistance you could provide and would put it to good use aiding victims of this disaster. Expanding the monitoring capabilities throughout the entire Pacific and Caribbean ocean basins and significant portions of the mid-Atlantic will provide tsunami warning capability for regions bordering half of the world's oceans.

Additionally, the world community is moving to correct this by working to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). By linking observation systems, sharing information and establishing working relationships with other partner countries around the world, we hope to avoid catastrophes or at very least lessen their blows to human populations.

The GEOSS initiative, led by the United States, Japan, South Africa and the European Commission, with 54 nations currently participating at the ministerial level, could help fill the sensor gap for other regions of the world. Two key focus areas of the GEOSS initiative are addressing “reducing loss of life and property due to disasters” and “monitoring our oceans.”

India, Indonesia, and Thailand are already partners in the international effort to develop GEOSS, and global tsunami warning systems will be a logical addition to this ‘system of systems.’ Charles Groat, the U.S. Geological Survey director, and I will be members of the U.S. delegation at the February 16, 2005, third Earth Observation Summit and will work to ensure that the development of a global tsunami warning system is a high priority for GEOSS.

Michael, from Australia writes:
Administrator, as an American living abroad, I was wondering if I can access the information to this new and improved system online? Also, how are you going to inform the country about this new system?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
You can go to the NOAA Web site at and find information about the new and current systems and our research on tsunamis. We are working with international partners and organizations to get the information out on this new initiative of the Bush Administration.

Annie, from Carmel IN writes:
Do you think another tsunami will hit again soon? I hear the people in Asia and how scared they are about another one hitting, I hope nothing happens like this again.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
When discussing tsunamis the question is not if one will occur, but when. We know what causes them and we know a great deal about how to track them and forecast their path. While we may not be able to control when mother earth decides to flex her incredible power, we can control our ability to warn citizens and keep them out of harms way and today we are answering that call.

The Tsunami Monitoring System we are proposing calls for the deployment of new deep-sea DART buoys and other sensors. It also calls for improved availability of seismic sensor data and a robust research component to improve forecasting.

This is truly a multi-national effort with multi-national benefits. We have had a fantastic relationship with our partners in the Pacific for many years. We are looking forward to working with our friends along the Atlantic and the Caribbean as well and are excited about the prospect of being able to monitor half the world’s oceans with this system.

The Tsunami Monitoring System is the perfect example of the power of integrated observations working together to make people safer.

Conner, from Miami Beach writes:
Where is the money coming for this improvement in the system? Does it fall under "natural disaster" funds that are in the yearly fiscal budget? I am curious because after giving so much money to Asia, do we have enough for our own country's system? I hope so.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Yes, today President Bush committed $37.5 million to implement this proposal. NOAA will receive $24 million and the U.S. Geological Survey will receive $13.5 million. With the funds, NOAA will put 32 DART Tsunami buoys in place by mid-2007. USGS and NSF will improve the seismic monitoring and information delivery from the Global Seismic Network. This will provide the United States with nearly 100 percent detection capability for a U.S. coastal tsunami allowing response within seconds.

Carolyne, from Grand Haven Michigan writes:
what other projects besides tsunamis does the NOAA work on? What kind of things do you do?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
NOAA, a Commerce Department agency, provides these services to the nation and world through the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, and NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research; and program units such as NOAA’s Office of Program Planning and Integration and NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations.

NOAA’s National Weather Service provides weather, water, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service works to balance our use of coastal and ocean resources today with the need to protect, preserve, and restore these important resources for future.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for the stewardship for the world’s largest exclusive economic zone. NOAA Fisheries protect and preserve the Nation’s living marine resources and their habitats through scientific research, fisheries management, law enforcement, and habitat conservation.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service observes the Earth, oceans, and atmosphere every day and uses these observations to benefit all people and sectors of society. Composed of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites for short-range warning and “nowcasting,” and polar-orbiting environmental satellites for longer term forecasting, the system provides the U.S. space-based component of a global monitoring system.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA Research) is NOAA’s primary research and development organization, studies the Earth system from the deep ocean to the sun. NOAA Research helps us understand and predict environmental changes on the local to global scales and at time scales from days to centuries. The NOAA Research network consists of 12 internal research laboratories, 30 Sea Grant university research programs, six undersea research centers, a research grants program through the Office of Global Programs and 13 cooperative institutes with academia.

NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations (NMAO) mission is to manage, operate and maintain the Nation’s largest civil fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft, which collect data for NOAA’s environmental stewardship assessment and prediction programs. NOAA’s ships are specially equipped and designed to support the agency’s programs, and have capabilities not found in the commercial fleet. Like the ships, NOAA aircraft are specially modified to carry instrument packages appropriate for NOAA’s missions and are unique in their ability to support the agency’s atmospheric and a wide range of other research programs. NOAA aircraft operate throughout the world, providing a wide range of research and survey capabilities, from weather research, hurricane surveillance, to snowpack surveys for flood prediction and water resource management, to coastline mapping for erosion studies, to marine mammal surveys.

In addition, NOAA research and operational activities are supported by the Nation’s seventh uniformed service, the NOAA Corps, a commissioned officer corps of men and women who operate NOAA ships and aircraft, as well as serve in the agency’s research laboratories and program offices throughout the nation and in remote locations around the world. NMAO also manages NOAA’s Dive Program.

To learn more about NOAA’s accomplishments in the last fiscal year visit:

Kate, from Spokane, Washington St. writes:
thank you for taking questions. Have you, or anyone else on your staff been to Asia to see the destruction? I am curious because it seems many people have traveled there and didn't know if you had.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
I have not been to the region since the tsunami, but have seen as you have the devastation on news reports. As the former commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet I am very well acquainted with this beautiful region of the world. We have a delegation headed to Kobe, Japan, next week for the U.N. World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which will include several sessions that will be devoted to addressing the tsunami response. It is with great sadness that we think about the pain our friends in Asia are going through in the wake of this disaster. We have great hope that with the upgraded system we outlined today and improved global cooperation on observation and warning system that we can prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

Tracey, from Mississippi writes:
If a tsunami were to hit the US, which coast would it most likely hit? (and even so I really don't think this would happen to the US), so is that true? But seriously, could it happen to us? how should we prepare?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Twenty-four tsunamis have caused damage in the United States and its territories during the last 204 years. Just since 1946, six tsunamis have killed more than 350 people and caused a half billion dollars of property damage in Hawaii, Alaska, and the West Coast. As a tsunami nears the coastline, it may rise to several feet or, in rare cases, tens of feet, and can cause great loss of life and property damage when it comes ashore. Tsunamis can travel upstream in coastal estuaries and rivers, with damaging waves extending farther inland than the immediate coast. A tsunami can occur during any season of the year and at any time, day or night.

You can learn whether tsunamis have occurred in your area by contacting your local emergency management office, National Weather Service office, or the American Red Cross. If you are in a tsunami risk area, learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

The Pacific Ocean has the highest possibility of a tsunami, the Caribbean less so, and an Atlantic tsunami would be a very rare occurrence. All tsunamis are potentially dangerous, even though they may not damage every coastline they strike. Damaging tsunamis are very rare. Our coastlines are vulnerable, but tsunamis are infrequent. Understand the hazard and learn how to protect yourself, but don't let the threat of tsunamis ruin your enjoyment of the beach.

From a local perspective, you may be interested to know that NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center is located in Mississippi. For more information go to:

Chrisopher, from LA writes:
It says this warning system is "improved"...what exactly does that mean?

When did the original system go into effect? And if the tsunami in SE Asia wouldn't have hit, would our system have been improved?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
The Tsunami Monitoring System we are proposing calls for the deployment of new deep-sea DART (Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) buoys and other sensors to provide coverage for the entire American coastline. It also calls for improved availability of seismic sensor data and a robust research component to improve forecasting. With new funding, this system is ready to be deployed since it relies on proven technologies that already provide a 24/7 watch over the Pacific.

Even before the Indian Ocean disaster, we were on track to improve and expand the existing system. Here’s a brief history. The NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory began prototype development in 1995. The First system test-deployment off the U.S. Washington-Oregon coast was in the summer of 1995. A re-designed system deployed in deep water off Oahu, Hawaii in March 1997. A six buoy DART array was completed in 2001. Transition of DART network from research began in the summer of 2001 and was completed by the Fall of 2003. The system had scheduled to increase by 2 buoys over the next couple of years with the final array of approximately 2 dozen buoys scheduled to be in place by 2012. The disaster and the current initiative speeds up that process. To learn more about the DART program go to:

Jones, from Austin, Texas writes:
Admiral,thank you for answering questions today. My question is should the entire country be aware of this or only those on the coast? Thank you.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
As I mentioned earlier, more than one-half of the people in the United States live along the coast and approximately 180 million people vacation and recreate there every year. The announced action means that Americans need not fear what lies beyond that next wave. They can carry on with their lives comforted that someone is looking out for them. We know what causes tsunamis and we know a great deal about how to track them and forecast their path. While we may not be able to control when mother earth decides to flex her incredible power, we can control our ability to warn citizens and keep them out of harms way and today we are answering that call.

KENNETH, from L.A.CA. writes:

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
This really depends on the point at which the tsunami was triggered. Depending on that it could be a matter of minutes or hours.

A general rule-of-thumb is that if hard shaking takes place for 15-20 seconds in a coastal area, you should evacuate. The closer you are to the tsunami source, the less time you have to get away. In the open ocean tsunamis can travel over 500 miles/hour in water depth greater then 17,000 feet. In shallow water, say 60 feet, they travel about 30 miles/hour. You cannot outrun them with a boat. For example, a tsunami would travel from Sand Point, AK to Hawaii in about 4.5 hours and to California in about 6 hours. Be sure to check if your community is a member of the Tsunami Ready program at:

Shehzad, from Saint Louis writes:
Admiral we thank your for this timely but unique opportunity. What role can National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration play in homeland security?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Although NOAA is best known as a premier science and service agency whose mission is to describe and predict changes in the Earth's environment, NOAA expertise and services can be applied to many other areas, including national security. NOAA is uniquely positioned to provide essential products and services to ensure that U.S. ports/coasts remain open and are protected, and that the air we breathe remains safe.

NOAA established a Homeland Security Program Office within its Office of the Chief Information Officer shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Responsibilities include coordinating all plans, programs and policies regarding homeland security; ensuring continuity of operations; continued delivery of services and working with other offices to guarantee the safety and security of NOAA's staff and facilities. The NOAA HSPO was also charged with establishing an Incident Coordination Center within NOAA to provide secure and reliable communications and serve as a command center in the event that there is another homeland security incident.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What is the difference between a tsunami and a hurricane?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by any rapid large-scale disturbance of the sea water. Most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes, but they may also be caused by volcanic eruptions, landslides, undersea slumps or meteor impacts.

In the deep ocean, a tsunami is barely noticeable and will only cause a small and slow rising and falling of the sea surface as it passes. Only as it approaches land does a tsunami become a hazard. As the tsunami approaches land and shallow water, the waves slow down and become compressed, causing them to grow in height. In the best of cases, the tsunami comes onshore like a quickly rising tide and causes a gentle flooding of low-lying coastal areas.

A hurricane is a name for a strong tropical cyclone. A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a non-frontal low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.

Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 mph are called "tropical depressions". Once the tropical cyclone reaches winds of at least 39 mph they are typically called a "tropical storm" and assigned a name. If winds reach 74 mph, then they are called a "hurricane".

Vaasu, from California writes:
I have heard that the current tsunami detection system can warn of an approaching storm around 15 minutes in advance. I live near the California coast so I was wondering what steps would be taken when a warning is received, given the limited time frame.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Part of the answer to this is to follow a series of common sense actions outlined by emergency management organizations like FEMA.

Find out if your home is in a danger area. Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.

Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. Because tsunamis can be caused by an underwater disturbance or an earthquake, people living along the coast should consider an earthquake or a sizable ground rumbling as a warning signal. A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching. Make sure all family members know how to respond to a tsunami.

Make evacuation plans. Pick an inland location that is elevated. After an earthquake or other natural disaster, roads in and out of the vicinity may be blocked, so pick more than one evacuation route.

Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a tsunami (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, often it's easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on tsunamis.

Listen to a radio or television to get the latest emergency information, and be ready to evacuate if asked to do so.

If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once. Climb to higher ground. A tsunami warning is issued when authorities are certain that a tsunami threat exists.

Stay away from the beach. Never go down to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. Return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.

A tsunami is a series of waves. Do not assume that one wave means that the danger over. The next wave may be larger than the first one so stay out of the area.

The NOAA National Weather Service operates a Tsunami Ready Community Program. It’s an initiative that promotes tsunami hazard preparedness as an active collaboration among Federal, state and local emergency management agencies, the public, and the NOAA tsunami warning system.

This collaboration supports better and more consistent tsunami awareness and mitigation efforts among communities at risk. The main goal is improvement of public safety during tsunami emergencies.

The contact for information on becoming a Tsunami Ready for communities in California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska is the NOAA West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, AK. Their Web site is

Communities in Hawaii contact the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center online at

Or, contact your local NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office.

eric, from China writes:
How to establish tsunami detection and warning system effectively? thank you

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
International cooperation is the key to the effective establishment of a global tsunami detection and warning system. The U.S. leadership role in the development of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) is aimed at developing a comprehensive global earth observation system with nine areas of emphasis, one of which is natural hazards like tsunamis. The U.S. convened the first Earth Observation Summit in 2004 with 34 participating nations. That number has grown to 54 nations. The GEOSS implementation plan for this new system is scheduled to be adopted at the Third Earth Observation Summit that will be held in Brussels this February and GEOSS could be the mechanism to facilitate enhanced international cooperation.

With specific reference to the Indian Ocean, the U.S. will continue working closely with the international community to help implement recommended tsunami detection and warning measures for the Indian Ocean Basin and other ocean basins and seas of the world currently without adequate tsunami warning capability.

As a member of the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific, the U.S. has actively encouraged non-member States to participate, recognizing the need for greater international cooperation.

John, from Richland, WA writes:
Admiral, How is it possible to detect a Tsunami? Underwater sensors? Even if we could detect it. How much good would it do?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
We now have the capability to predict with certainty if a tsunami has been created and where it’s headed and when it will hit. The relatively new technology developed by NOAA, the Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis buoys are the key, to this effort. They provide the critical data that allows us to read whether a tsunami has been generated by an earthquake and where it’s headed.

We rely on a variety remote sensing devices including underwater sensors, floating data buoys and we are now discovering that radar data from orbiting environmental satellites may be able to provide information that could be useful for tsunami research.

As far as the future is concerned we need the following:

  • Additional DART buoys and other sensors to provide more accurate/earlier detection along more of the US coast; monitor the Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Improved availability of real-time seismic sensor data and upgraded infrastructure for better earthquake detection and warning including instrumentation in the Caribbean.
  • Expanded research on seismic, tsunami processes to improve forecasting.
  • Improved response capacity with enhanced emergency warning systems, community response plans and public education.
As with any natural hazard warning system, the more informed the public is the better are the chances for survival. Consequently public education will be a significant component of an effective warning system.

Bryan, from Georgia writes:
Mr. Lautenbaucher, How possible is it to actually detect a tsunami? How much would it prevent devastation, even if we knew before hand?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
The DART systems consist of an anchored seafloor bottom pressure recorder and a companion moored surface buoy for real-time communications. The science is a bit involved, but basically, an acoustic link transmits data from the bottom pressure recorder on the seafloor to the surface buoy. As a tsunami wave crest passes over the instrument, the increased pressure causes, through a series of processes, an increase in the vibrational frequency. The passage of a tsunami trough reduces the pressure causing a lowering of the vibrational frequency. These quartz crystal vibrational frequency changes can be measured very precisely by the electronics system of the tsunami gauge and the frequency changes are then converted into the corresponding changes in tsunami height.

For periods greater than a minute or so, and for deployments at depths of 5000 m, the transducer is sensitive to changes in wave height of less than a millimeter. The data is then relayed via a NOAA GOES satellite link to ground stations, which demodulate the signals for immediate dissemination to the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers, the National Data Buoy Center, and Pacific Marine Environmental Lab.

The warnings resulting from the processed data won’t prevent property destruction, but would mean that peoples’ lives could be saved if evacuations and other emergency actions are taken.

Christopher, from Travis writes:
What are the current capabilities of tsunami detection systems for East and West Coasts? For example, if the Canary's slide into the Atlantic, when will we know, and how long will we have before tsunami's hit?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
There is a system in the Pacific now. The proposal announced today would enhance that system and add coverage in the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans with new and increase detection systems and warning centers like those in Alaska and Hawaii. Once in place, those systems would be able to detect conditions that might cause a tsunami in seconds and get warnings in about 15 minutes using current technology.

Timing on when the tsunami might hit varies with the distance from the event to your location. If it occurred just off shore, you would probably feel the triggering earthquake and should immediately head to higher ground away from the beach. If it was hundreds of miles away, you might have hours to get to safety. The fully operational system would be able to give you the amount of time before the wave or series of waves hit.

Kevin, from Topeka, KS writes:
What is the timetable for implementing new and improved tsunami detection devices in the United States?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
The Bush Administration today announced a plan to expand U.S. tsunami detection and warning capabilities as part of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, the international effort to develop a comprehensive, sustained and integrated Earth observation system. The plan commits a total of $37.5 million over the next two years.

With this new investment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will deploy 32 new advanced technology Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami buoys for a fully operational tsunami warning system by mid-2007. In addition, the United States Geological Survey will enhance its seismic monitoring and information delivery from the Global Seismic Network, a partnership with the National Science Foundation.

The new system will provide the United States with nearly 100% detection capability for a U.S. coastal tsunami, allowing response within minutes. The new system will also expand monitoring capabilities throughout the entire Pacific and Caribbean basins, providing tsunami warning for regions bordering half of the world’s oceans.

Mike, from Athens, OH writes:
Is the United States working with other countries to help strenghten the warning system for the future occurance of tsunamis?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Yes we are - in fact the United States is providing leadership in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), the international effort of 54 participating nations including India, Indonesia and Thailand, to develop a comprehensive, sustained and integrated Earth observation system.

In parallel and like the U.S. Strategic Plan, the GEOSS plan focuses around important societal benefit areas including reduction of disaster, caused loss of life and property, and the protection and monitoring of the ocean resources.

The United States will work with its GEOSS partners and other international bodies to develop a global tsunami warning system. For more information on the U.S. involvement with GEOSS please visit

Anne, from New York, NY writes:
What specifically are the early tsunami signs that you can see from the satallites?

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
After reviewing data from four Earth-orbiting radar satellites, NOAA scientists discovered they were able to measure the height of the devastating tsunami that erupted in the Indian Ocean. The ability to make depth surveys from space may lead to improvements in the models that forecast the hazardous effects of tsunamis.

Right now, this technique is not a first line of defense in tsunami hazard monitoring and warnings, but it gives scientists a window to tsunami activity in the deep and in remote parts of an ocean basin, too far away from coastal tide gauges and other instruments that could detect it.

NOAA researchers propose that the best application of satellite data to improve tsunami hazard forecasts would be a reconnaissance mapping of the ocean floor from space. The detailed shape of the seabed, all across the ocean basin, determines the focusing - or diffusion - of tsunami energy barreling toward the coast.

Admiral Conrad Lautenbaucher
Thank all or you for taking the time to discuss this timely and meaningful event with me. Throughout the rest of the world, we will continue our work with our international partners to develop a Global Earth Observing System of Systems. A global system of comprehensive, sustained and integrated Earth observations will enable better tsunami monitoring in the Indian Ocean and other areas of the world presently without protection. The Tsunami Monitoring System is the perfect example of the power of integrated observations working together to make people safer.