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Tsunami's upper atmosphere airglow could serve as early warning system

Washington , Fri, 15 Jul 2011 ANI

Washington, July 15 (ANI): An airglow signature in the upper atmosphere produced by a tsunami has been recorded for the first time ever by University of Illinois scientists using a camera system based in Maui, Hawaii.


The signature waves, caused by the March 11 earthquake that devastated Japan, were observed in an airglow layer 250 kilometres above the earth's surface.


It preceded the tsunami by one hour, suggesting that the technology could be used as an early-warning system in the future.


The observation confirms a theory developed in the 1970s that the signature of tsunamis could be observed in the upper atmosphere, specifically the ionosphere.


But until now, it had only been demonstrated using radio signals broadcast by satellites.


"Imaging the response using the airglow is much more difficult because the window of opportunity for making the observations is so narrow, and had never been achieved before," said Jonathan Makela, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and researcher in the Coordinated Science Laboratory.


"Our camera happened to be in the right place at the right time," he stated.


The findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters. (ANI)


Read More: Mau | Tsunami

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