MIT Logo


Link to Home Page
Link to Background
Link to Funding
Link to Coordination Link to Proposal One Link to Proposal Two Link to Proposal Three Link to Bibliography



December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

The December 26, 2004 tsunami is the worst tsunami disaster in history.  It originated from an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 called the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake as well as fourteen aftershocks.1  The earthquake then generated a tsunami that struck the coasts of 14 countries.

Many of the countries were hit by waves up to 30 meters high.  Of the countries that were affected, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, and Thailand received the most damages.  The general consensus among the many tsunami reports state that more than 250,000 people have been killed.

Although there is a tsunami warning system installed in the Pacific Ocean, there were no tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean to detect the tsunami and warn the people.  As a result, the tsunami struck by surprise.  Thus, there is an urgent need for tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean.

Back to Top

Tsunamis in Peru & Micronesia

Peru is frequently struck by earthquakes and tsunamis.2 Since record keeping began, Peru has been battered with 90 tsunamis, varying in size and strength. The most recent which occurred in 2001, generated waves seven meters high and killed 26 people.

Micronesia is consists of the States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae.2 It was not hit heavily by the December 2004 Tsunami, but is in a place that is vulnerable to any tsunamis that occurs in the Pacific Ocean. The most recent event to occur in the Micronesian area was in 1925. Previous to that, the only other historically known tsunamis in Micronesia happened in 1912.

Back to Top

Pacific Ocean Tsunami Warning System

The Pacific Ocean Tsunami Warning System was established in 1948.1 The system first covered the Hawiian islands and surround regions. In 1953 it was expanded to include the west coast of the United States. After the 1960 tsunami, other nations joined in the system. The US offered to expand the system, which the UN accepted. Since its creation, the has successfully warned for the five major tsunamis, but has also raised fifteen false alarms.

The warning center is stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. It receives seismic data from earthquakes and computes the epicenter and the magnitude. If the event warrants it, the center would then send out a bulletin to the member nations. The member nations would then implement their evacuation plans. It then is also about the monitor the progress of a tsunami across the Pacific through the use of the buoy system.

Currently, the Pacific Tsunami Warning System is maintained by the United States under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with all of its funding being provided by the United States.3 The tsunami portion of the NOAA receives roughly $10.3 million per year. This sum is for the operation of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and for any upgrades to the system. After the Indian Ocean tsunami, the US government has promised $37.5 million for upgrades to the system.4 This will only put 20 of a proposed 32 DART buoys in place. The expansion of the system would also increase the cost of maintenance and operation from current levels up to a possible $10 million dollars per year.

Back to Top

International Tsunami Organizations

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), an International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific (ICG/ITSU)5

This is a forum that meets every two years to discuss world wide tsunami issues.. It works closely with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to make sure that damage from a tsunami is kept to a minimum. It advocates for development of the current warning network and helps develop regional and national systems around the world.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center6

This is the tsunami warning system for the Pacific Ocean. Whenever an earthquake happens, the center registers the event and determines if it produced a tsunami. It then notifies the nations on the Pacific basin whether or not further action is needed.

The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (TEC)7

This agency is sponsored by the UN and focuses more on the humanitarian and policy side of issues. It develops evacuation plans and attempts to reduce stress on international relief by planning for events. It also serves as a forum to discuss policy change.

Back to Top