U.S. may sink its tsunami warning system
February 23, 2012
• NOAA cuts proposed funding
• ‘Like a homeowner economizing by disconnecting the smoke alarm’
U.S. tsunami warning buoys in red
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may curtail support for its ocean-based tsunami warning system, according to an analysis of NOAA’s proposed budget by the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
NOAA’s “Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis” (DART) network of 39 stations covers the West Coast, as well as the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently, more than one in four (10 out of 39) of its DART stations are inoperative.
“The planned reduction in operations and maintenance will likely lead to even greater outages in the DART network, which according to NOAA, ‘serves as the cornerstone of the U.S. tsunami warning system,’” says PEER.
The NOAA budget also contemplates ending funding for Alaska’s tsunami and seismic network and emergency public outreach for the West Coast and Alaska, among other activities, the group says.
The cuts were not mentioned in public briefings on the FY 2013 NOAA budget but were disclosed in employee briefings and correspondence with state partners, says PEER.
“Our tsunami warning system is one of the last things NOAA should contemplate cutting,” says PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “This is like a homeowner economizing by disconnecting the smoke alarm.”
PEER contends that aggravating the effects of the cuts are plans to remove the Information Technology Officer positions from all Weather Forecast Offices nationwide. These workers relay all weather and tsunami warnings to public safety and civil defense authorities.