When a tsunami killed 230,000 people in Southeast Asia in December 2004, the insured losses neared $4 billion.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says one the primary factors contributed to unprecedented loss of life was the lack of an effective international warning system. With this in mind, the United States has accelerated preparation for a potential tsunami along the U.S. coastline and efforts to build partnerships for an international warning program.

“NOAA is advancing tsunami science and warning systems for America and many at-risk parts of the world,” says Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.”

Among the advances to the nation’s tsunami detection and warning capabilities since 2004 is the increased use of high-resolution tsunami models. In 2004, NOAA had no models available for forecasting the impact of a tsunami along U.S. coastlines. Presently, have 43 high-resolution models for real-time inundation forecasts for tsunami threatened coastal communities are housed within the two U.S. tsunami warning centers. While formally open just 40 hours per week, those stations are now staffed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, NOAA notes.

Moreover, the network of station buoys operationally deployed around the Pacific Rim and in the Atlantic has expanded to 39 from six in 2004. Lastly, NOAA notes that in 2004, only 11 U.S. communities were certified through its TsunamiReady program. Now, 72 communities are recognized.

 “Our efforts cannot stop with researching, developing technology and issuing forecasts – successful early warning ultimately relies on communicating the threat clearly so a prepared population will be able to act responsibly,” Lubchenco says.

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