Tsunami warning system reviewed

Sept. 17, 2010 at 7:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- The United States' ability to detect and forecast tsunamis has improved since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but serious challenges remain, experts say.

Of concern are tsunamis generated near land that leave little time for warning, a report to Congress by the National Research Council says.

The report urges a national assessment of tsunami risk and improved coordination among the two federal Tsunami Warning Centers, emergency managers, media and the public, a release by the National Academy of Sciences said.

"For a tsunami warning system to be effective, it must operate flawlessly, and emergency officials must coordinate seamlessly and communicate clearly," said John Orcutt, chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

Orcutt is a professor of geophysics and planetary physics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

"However, if a large earthquake near shore triggers a tsunami, it could reach the coast within minutes, allowing hardly any time to disseminate warnings and for the public to react," Orcutt's report said.

"Education and preparation are necessary to ensure that people know how to recognize natural cues -- such as earthquake tremors or receding of the water line -- and take appropriate action, even if they do not receive an official warning."

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