Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Tsunami Sensor

PostedOctober 22, 2017

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LEDE: Most earthquakes happen under water. And, as we’ve seen in recent years, the potential for damaging tsunami waves are real. But monitoring the sea floor is a challenge.

Randy Atkins: Scientists want to not only detect then next “big one” in the ocean, but also monitor even small changes in the sea floor. So Dana Manalang, a University of Washington engineer, is using robots to place specially designed underwater pressure detectors there.

Dana Manalang: The pressure on the sea floor tells us how much water is above the sea floor, and so when there’s motion, when the sea floor either drops or moves up, we’re able to determine that.

Randy Atkins: Incredibly, Manalang says shifts of less than a millimeter can be detected. To make it work, she’s designing a system to keep the sensors precisely calibrated…even in a dynamic ocean environment.

Dana Manalang: It takes a discerning seismologist eye to determine what is a fish bump and what is an earthquake.

Randy Atkins: Manalang says the self-calibrating devices should be rugged enough to continuously monitor for at least a decade. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.