Scientist Pleased With Wave Forecasts After Quake

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

One of the top tsunami scientists in Alaska says they are pretty pleased with the wave forecasts generated after the Japan earthquake.

Paul Whitmore, director of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, says their forecasts usually start with a sophisticated computer model of a tsunami crossing the Pacific.

What Whitmore says ‘they were seeing’ was data from tidal gauges in some communities. The U.S. also operates a network of nearly 40 deep ocean bouys – most along the Pacific rim – that sends back information on potential tsunamis.

Whitmore says they were pretty close – about 65-percent accurate – with their predictions of wave heights in Alaska.  Accuracy was better with some of the bigger waves – like the five-footer at Shemya.

Whitmore says they did notice one big problem. Computer servers for their webpage could not take the load. Traffic spiked to two-and-a-half times their previous record.

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