Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami Watch

After studying the official tsunami reports on the National Weather Service website I tuned in to watch live coverage on Hawaii News Now. This is all oceanographic excitement from the from the 8.8 earthquake in Chile. There are lots of other places affected, including California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. But Hawaii seemed the most interesting. The TV station has a remote camera on Hilo Bay. The surging water was so dramatic I decided to take some screen shots. The bridge in the shot is 10' high.

12 PM (Hawaii Time) (5pm my time) outrush
12:03 back in
12:07 outrush
12:08, really going
12:29, outrush again. missed the crest because TV station was on another shot

The main effect from this activity is going to be extreme turbidity. Corals have the ability to move some sand and silt off themselves. They will be busy doing this for a while I expect. Some of the delicate ones can get broken by such an unusual surge, but this probably wasn't any worse than storm swells.

Before this action started the announcers reported news from the people watching the whales off the coast. They all of a sudden moved off shore. I couldn't help thinking of one whale turning to the other whale going,"Shhhh.... Do you smell that? Let's get out of here!"

The official report has these numbers already:

GAUGE LOCATION        LAT   LON    TIME        AMPL         PER
 -------------------  ----- ------  -----  ---------------  -----
 KAWAIHAE HAWAII      20.0N 155.8W  2211Z   0.52M /  1.7FT  24MIN
 BARBERS PT HI        21.3N 158.1W  2140Z   0.19M /  0.6FT  76MIN
 KAUMALAPAU HAWAII    20.8N 156.9W  2136Z   0.18M /  0.6FT  56MIN
 KAHULUI MAUI         20.9N 156.5W  2147Z   0.98M /  3.2FT  22MIN
 NAWILIWILI KAUAI     22.0N 159.4W  2151Z   0.28M /  0.9FT  44MIN
 HILO HI              19.7N 154.9W  2120Z   0.86M /  2.8FT  20MIN
 PAGO PAGO AS         14.3S 170.7W  2132Z   0.66M /  2.2FT  12MIN

So that's what a 2.8 ft surge in 20 minutes looks like. From my screen shots the surge seems to turn around in under 10 minutes. That could be a local anomaly. The buoy that collects this data is probably located away from obstructions and channels and measures the big picture. But in that one spot you could see a lot of water rushing in and out pretty quickly. Not a Hollywood level catastrophe, but definitely a situation where you don't want your boat tied up to the dock the wrong way.

All in all a pretty impressive display of the National Weather System and the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. I expect I owe fiber optic cable for being able to watch it in near-real time. Good thing the fiber wasn't damaged by this event. Just look at all that fiber running around the Pacific! But where is it off the coast of Chile? I guess somebody thought the earthquake risk there was too great. They're patting themselves on the back right now.

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