NOAA models tsunami warning system

High-resolution computer models of Oregon’s coastline that simulate tsunamis and floods have been developed by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency announced Dec. 10.

Emergency managers will use the models to create evacuation and rescue plans for potential incidents, agency officials said, adding that the digital elevation models were developed by NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science. The models cover the Oregon coastal area from Port Orford to the Columbia River.

The digital elevation models provide a framework that allows scientists to forecast the magnitude and extent of coastal flooding caused by a tsunami or storm surge with greater accuracy than older models, NOAA said. Since 2006, scientists have created 28 digital elevation models of U.S. coastal areas and an additional 45 digital elevation models are planned for the future.

The coastal digital elevation models are part of the U.S. Tsunami Forecast and Warning System and the new Oregon models will assist the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industry map tsunami evacuation zones, the agency said.

NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle incorporated the models into distant tsunami model scenarios, the agency said, adding that the scenarios simulate offshore earthquakes, the resulting tsunami that travels across the Pacific Ocean, and the potential floods when the tsunami reaches the coast.

With that information, NOAA's Tsunami Warning Centers can issue more accurate flooding forecasts if an earthquake triggers an actual tsunami, agency officials said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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