Via Science Daily
June 6, 2013 — Stanford scientists have identified key acoustic characteristics of the 2011 Japan earthquake that indicated it would cause a large tsunami. The technique could be applied worldwide to create an early warning system for massive tsunamis.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake occurred 43 miles off the shore of Japan. The earthquake generated an unexpectedly massive tsunami that washed over eastern Japan roughly 30 minutes later, killing more than 15,800 people and injuring more than 6,100. More than 2,600 people are still unaccounted for.
Now, computer simulations by Stanford scientists reveal that sound waves in the ocean produced by the earthquake probably reached land tens of minutes before the tsunami. If correctly interpreted, they could have offered a warning that a large tsunami was on the way.
Although various systems can detect undersea earthquakes, they can’t reliably tell which will form a tsunami, or predict the size of the wave. There are ocean-based devices that can sense an oncoming tsunami, but they typically provide only a few minutes of advance warning. Continue reading