In 2013, Prof. Louise Comfort received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a tsunami detection system in Padang, Indonesia. As a result, Prof. Comfort’s research has led to the creation of a faster detection system to replace the more expensive buoy system, possibly adding crucial extra minutes of warning for vulnerable coastal cities.
According to the Associated Press news release, the new tsunami detection system relies on undersea seismometers and pressure sensors that send data-laden sound waves to the warm surface waters. From there they refract back into the depths, traveling 20-30 kilometers to the next node in the network. “This entire process likely takes 3-5 minutes instead of the 5-45 minutes typical of the buoy system," explained Dr. Comfort. This project involved an interdisciplinary team of researchers from six collaborating institutions, four in the U.S. and two in Indonesia. Read more.