Cayman becomes part of tsunami warning system

| 25/03/2014

(CNS): Cayman now has its own tsunami sensor in George Town Harbour, making the islands part of the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Programme. Funded by UNESCO, it was installed by the German company OTT, which was contracted to also install five other new stations in the Caribbean. Helping the region to stay one step ahead of the natural ocean hazard, the high precision sensors work by monitoring sea level. Meanwhile, Hazard Management Cayman Islands and other government agencies were taking part in a tsunami warning exercise Wednesday to assess response plans, increase preparedness and improve coordination throughout the region.

The sensor will send data via satellite to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii and other international scientific institutes. If an unusual change in sea level is detected, especially after an earthquake event, scientists analyse the data and decide whether a tsunami warning should be issued to Islands and countries that could potentially be impacted by the wave. The Cayman component uses both radar and pressure sensors to measure sea level, and data is also recorded locally and will be used by the Department of Environment, Lands and Survey and the National Weather Service for various research projects.

The representative from OTT, Ronan O’Matiu, was assisted by staff from Hazard Management Cayman Islands, Lands and Survey, the Port Authority and the Department of Environment (DOE). Staff from DOE used underwater drilling equipment to secure the sensors to the pier wall in the harbour.

The continuously transmitted sea level data from the sensors will be made available on the Cayman Prepared website. Hazard Management Cayman Islands currently receives emergency messages about tsunamis from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Itis anticipated that Cayman will begin to receive messages from the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Puerto Rico once the Centre goes fully operational.

During Wednesday’s exercise Cayman will be facing a fictitious tsunami triggered by an imaginary 8.5 earthquake located approximately 270 km off the coast of Portugal. As a result, a widespread tsunami warning and watch situation occurs throughout the Caribbean requiring implementation of local tsunami response plans.

A number of local agencies will be participating in the exercise including 911, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Cayman Islands National Weather Service and Government Information Services.

The aim is to allow government agencies to review and enhance existing national tsunami plans including the notification procedure, local warning phases for alerting the public and response services and to complete the evaluation form for Caribe Wave 2014. It will provide an opportunity to review local equipment and capabilities and identify long, medium and short issues for tsunami preparedness and response planning, and media templates.

Historical tsunami records from sources such as the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that over 75 tsunamis with high validity have been observed in the Caribbean over the past 500 years. These represent some 7–10% of the world’s oceanic tsunamis. Earthquake, landslide, and volcanic tsunami sources have all impacted the region. Since 1842 almost 3,500 people have lost their lives to tsunamis in the Caribbean.

In addition to tsunamis, the region also has a long history of destructive earthquakes. Historical records show that major earthquakes have struck the Caribbean region many times during the past 500 years.

Within the region there are multiple fault segments and submarine features that could be the source of earthquake and landslide generated tsunamis. The perimeter of the Caribbean plate is bordered by no fewer than four major plates (North American, South American, Nazca, and Cocos). Subduction occurs along the Eastern and Northeastern Atlantic margins of the Caribbean plate. Normal, transform and strike slip faulting characterize northern South America, eastern Central America, the Cayman Ridge and Trench and the Northern plate boundary (Benz et al, 2011).

As well as local and regional sources, the region is also threatened by teletsunamis or trans-Atlantic tsunamis, like that of 1755. A major earthquake occurs about every 50 years in the Caribbean, and the possibility of a resulting tsunami is real and should be taken seriously, officials warned.

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Category: Science and Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. SKEPTICAL says:

    Prepare for a Tsunami ?? 80% of Grand Cayman is barely 15 feet above sea level. Should the possible trans – Atlantic tidal wave resulting from the predicted collapse of half of one of the Canary Islands ever occur, the only positive is that we will have several hours in which to say our prayers,  and put our heads between our knees, and kiss our ass goodbye. Preparation for the level of inundation we experienced during " IVAN " is one thing, but there is nothing you can do if a 100 foot wave travelling at scores of miles per hour hits us from the East. Please God it will never happen, but if it does all the training in the World will have no affect on the outcome.

    • JahDread says:

      We presume the results of the local exercise will be published right, or we. Have to wait until after the Brac Fet oops sorry I mean Retreat.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great! Now more of a reason to increase insurance!!

    Like we dont pay enough already for house and vehicle!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Only place I would go is out to sea. Head for deep water.

  4. Otherview says:

    Yes, this is good. When the warning is sounded, we should all head for high ground, 

    especially those living in costal properties.  Finally Mt. Trashmore has a purpose.

  5. And Another Ting says:

    So when is the public going to be advised of the processes that should be followed in the event of a wRning or actual event?

    • Anonymous says:

      You already know what action is needed. If it is anything more than a 2 or 3 foot Tsunami, put your head between your legs and kiss your a$$ goodbye. Game over.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don't worry about it if it is in the Harbour the bell will ring 10 seconds before the wave hits.