On Sept 22, 2015, the Chilean Navy research vessel Cabo de Hornos departed from Valparaiso, Chile, loaded with two experimental, 4th generation Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART-4G) buoy sensors. Over the coming days, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership with the Servicio Hidrografico y Oceanografico de la Armada de Chile (SHOA), will deploy and test the DART-4G sensors within the seismically active Chilean subduction zone. Although NOAA has 39 buoys currently deployed throughout the world, the new additions will provide coverage in a region of the Pacific that remains un-sensed and at risk for tsunami generation.
As demonstrated by the 8.3 earthquake that generated a 5 meter tsunami in some locations of the Chilean coast on Sept 16, 2015, improved tsunami detection is a mutual interest for both the United States and Chile. The newest generation DART-4G sensors can separate the seismic noise from the tsunami wave signal potentially allowing forecasters to measure the tsunami wave as the earth is still shaking and greatly improve warning time. As NOAA’s Tsunami Program Director, Michael Angove, described, even an additional 20 minute warning is “an ‘eternity’ in terms of near-field tsunami forecasts where waves can begin inundating coastlines within 15-20 minutes (or less)” following a seismic event.
The NOAA/SHOA research partnership is the result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by both organizations in June of 2015. Over the next 5 years, the DART-4G sensor sites will provide coverage for improved forecasts throughout the Pacific while allowing further testing of the DART-4G technology.