Caribbean and Adjacent Regions Sea Level Monitoring System for Tsunami and Other Coastal Applications

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Sunday, 2 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Hector M. Crespo-Jones, NOAA/NWS, Mayaguez, PR; and C. von Hillebrandt

The Caribbean and adjacent regions have a record of over 75 tsunamis in the last 500 years, causing 3500 deaths in the past 170 years, an equivalent of 6 times more deaths than the Northeastern Pacific. This is of great concern due to the vast population living in coastal areas, as well as to the economic activity by tourism on Caribbean coasts. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Areas (CARIBE-EWS) was established in 2005 with the objective of preventing the loss of life and economic disruption a tsunami could cause. The main focal areas are divided as 4 Working Groups: monitoring and warning, hazard and risk assessments, communications, and preparedness. Working Group 1, monitoring and warning encloses the monitoring of sea level stations. Even when seismic data is the source for the initial messages, the coastal sea level gauges and DART buoys are critical for the detection and forecasting of the tsunami waves. Currently, the CARIBE-EWS sea level network consists of 7 deep ocean DARTŠ buoys and 55 coastal sea level gauges. However, the goal is to have 100 stations contributing to the system. To achieve this goal the CARIBE EWS has coordinated sea level station training sessions for the operators based on installation, visualization tools and quality control of the data for the resilience of the network. Other specific recommendations have been made on the characteristics of the coastal sea level gauges to increase their sustainability: sampling rates, accuracy, redundancy, real/near real time robust data transmission, hardening for severe weather and coastal events. Sea level operators highlighted the importance of having adequate resources and training to visualize and analyze the data received. To answer their needs the Sea Level Monitoring Facility was developed by IOC, and the Tide Tool software was developed by the NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the International Tsunami Information Center with more robust data analysis functions. Another strong recommendation is the need for sea level stations to meet the requirements of other coastal applications beside tsunamis, like weather, climate, navigation, and mapping. As part of these multidisciplinary efforts, sea level application tools are currently under evaluation.