Cooks to be warned of tsunamis

Monday August 31, 2020 Written by Published in Weather
Cooks to be warned of tsunamis

High-tech buoys by Tonga Trench should alert Cook Islands to dangerous tidal waves.

Fifteen tsunami-detection buoys are being anchored across the Pacific – and welcomed as good news for the safety of Cook Islands.

New Zealand announced yesterday that an ocean science vessel had embarked on a voyage to deploy five of the DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) buoys.

“New Zealand and the Pacific region are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters,”
said New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. “It is vital we have adequate warning systems in place.”

Cook Islands Meteorological Service director Arona Ngari welcomed the roll-out.

“A buoy of this kind would be ideal for the Cook Islands if placed between us and the Tonga Trench,” he said.

“An early detection of earthquakes from this trench will allow us ample time to take precautionary measures so as not to be affected by the tsunami, if there is one, produced from such earthquakes.

Ngari added: “This is also good for local tsunamis when there is no other alerting system available close to Island states.”

Two DART buoys are being placed along the Kermadec Trench (which had previously been reliance on one faulty buoy) and three along the Tonga Trench.

The NIWA research vessel RV Tangaroa left New Zealand on Friday, on a month-long voyage to place the five buoys.

The DART buoys are deep-ocean instruments that monitor changes in sea level. They are capable of measuring sea-level changes of less than a millimetre in the deep ocean.

New science confirms some earthquakes of up to Magnitude 9, originating in the Kermadec Trench, are not able to be strongly felt in New Zealand.

“DART buoys are the only tried and repeatedly tested technology that confirms the generation of tsunami waves before they reach the coast,” Winston Peters said.

“New Zealand is always among the first to offer support to our Pacific partners in the wake of a natural disaster.

“Tsunamis can be devastating for our communities, including those in the Pacific, not only due to the death and destruction they cause but through widespread economic damage that can take years to recover from.”

GNS Science’s National Geohazards Monitoring Centre will support the 24/7 monitoring to receive, process and analyse the data from the buoys, and provide early warning to Cook Islands and several other Pacific nations.

Not all underwater earthquakes and other seafloor disturbances cause tsunami. The DART buoys will also provide reassurance when no tsunami has been generated.

The last three buoys will be deployed next year, further north near the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia.

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