Sub-sea coms cable to watch for tsunamis

Marine scientists and a commercial firm are proposing to add sensors to an international submarine cable to observe and study ocean processes, provide early alerts for potential disasters and study deep Earth geodynamics.


“This is the first time a commercial telecommunications company’s cable installations will be deployed with embedded science sensors,” said Professor John Orcutt of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. “It provides us with a whole new world of capability.”

Scripps is working with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and TE SubCom of New Jersey.

In its feasibility stage, the project concentrates on a 12,950km route from Sydney to Los Angeles via Auckland.

“Initial efforts are exploring the use of seismometers, pressure gauges and temperature sensors for hazard warning and mitigation,” said Scripps. “As funding develops, sensors could be deployed on future cables for the first time at 75km spacing. The sensors could allow scientists to measure the size and direction of tsunamis propagating across the ocean more precisely and to alert disaster management officials and first responders more quickly.”

The installation on the seafloor cable, according to the Institution, has the potential to greatly reduce long-term costs for tsunami monitoring, while at the same time increasing sensor density, accuracy and reliability.

In addition to seismometers and pressure gauges, the scientific ports along the cable could eventually include sensors related to the climate – for acoustic tomography and water column temperature and conductivity, for example.

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