...By Lola Smith for TDPel Media.
Scientists at Cardiff University have developed an early warning system for tsunamis and underwater earthquakes that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and acoustic-gravity waves.
The team combined underwater microphones with AI to monitor the movement of tectonic plates in real-time.
The system can detect the epicentre of the tectonic event and predict where evacuation is necessary.
The researchers have already used sound recordings to detect 200 earthquakes in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Acoustic-gravity waves travel through water faster than tsunami waves, which allows more time for evacuation of locations before landfall.
Acoustic-gravity waves are sound waves that move through the deep ocean at the speed of sound.
They can be generated by underwater earthquakes, explosions, and landslides, all of which can cause tsunamis.
The new system uses hydraphone recordings and a computational model to triangulate the source of the tectonic event, even thousands of kilometres away.
Mr Kadri and Dr Bernabe Gomez Perez currently have 11 hydrophones in the sea around the world, and they told Sky News that with 24, they would be able to monitor the entire globe.
The existing warning systems rely on waves reaching sea buoys and seismic sensors to trigger tsunami warnings.
However, they are not always accurate in predicting the danger posed by resulting tsunamis.
This leaves little time for evacuation, in a situation where a few minutes extra could be the difference between life and death.
The new system is designed to work in tandem with existing systems, with both acting as checks and balances for the other.
The algorithms of the new system can classify the earthquake’s ‘slip type’ and magnitude before analysing the earthquake’s properties, like length and width, uplift speed, and duration.
This can be used to find out the actual size of the tsunami.
Knowing the slip type at the early stages of the assessment can reduce false alarms and complement and enhance the reliability of the warning systems through independent cross-validation.
Mr Kadi said any false alarms could shut down businesses and ports, with a significant financial impact.
The team has been meeting with the UNESCO oceanographic commission to discuss opportunities to use the technology in disaster prevention.
Portugal, famed for its huge waves, was particularly interested in the insights it could offer.
The team’s work predicting tsunami risk is part of a long-running project to enhance natural hazard warning systems across the globe.
The full report was published in the Physics of Fluid on 25 April 2023.
This new system using AI and acoustic-gravity waves has the potential to save countless lives in the event of tsunamis and underwater earthquakes.
The fact that it can work in tandem with existing warning systems is also crucial, as it can act as a backup system and provide independent cross-validation.
The accuracy of the system in determining the actual size of the tsunami and predicting the slip type of the earthquake can reduce false alarms and enhance the reliability of the warning systems.
However, it is important to note that false alarms could have a significant financial impact, and it is essential to strike a balance between accuracy and avoiding unnecessary shutdowns of businesses and ports.
The potential applications of this technology in disaster prevention are enormous, and it is encouraging to see that the team is already meeting with the UNESCO oceanographic commission to explore its opportunities.