The Caribbean Tsunami Warning Network Set in Motion

The Seismic Research Unit (SRU) of the University of the West Indies selected the Nanometrics Inc. Libra VSAT telemetry seismic systems to establish a sustainable and robust seismic network to rapidly provide accurate detection of tsunamigenic events and issue early warnings for the region. This organization is responsible for monitoring earthquakes and volcanoes for islands of the Eastern Caribbean, in addition to the Dutch islands of Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Martin.

In May 2007, the SRU purchased five Nanometrics broadband Libra VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) telemetry seismic stations. This purchase followed the installation of nine VSAT-linked seismic stations in the Caribbean by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor Tsunamis. These stations are an extension of the Global Seismic Network (GSN), and will be operated in partnership with host institutions in the region. Three of these stations were deployed in the Eastern Caribbean for which the SRU is responsible. The SRU seized the opportunity to upgrade a subset of its stations to match the specifications required for Tsunami surveillance. Libra VSAT stations have been established on the islands of Tobago, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Dominica.

“We decided that a VSAT solution was the best option for our purposes,” said Lloyd Lynch, a senior engineer at the SRU. “We selected Nanometrics among other suppliers for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is a one-stop shop. The company designs and manufactures all system components from scratch and also provides support for the entire network. The Libras are extremely economical to operate; they allowed us to decrease our telecommunication rental costs by 600% when compared to other telecommunications options. It was a huge step for us in terms of reducing costs and complexity.”

The SRU is analyzing seismic data using Nanometrics Atlas data analysis and processing software. The SRU unit is planning to exchange and share data with several neighboring seismic monitoring laboratories in Venezuela, Guadaloupe and Martinique. These laboratories are also using the Nanometrics Libra VSAT systems. In fact, Libra technology is used in over 90% of the world's VSAT based seismograph networks.

Choosing a Nanometrics Libra system is a sound business decision. In most countries, network costs are as low as $40/station/month for continuous high quality 24-bit data. A common equipment set for all stations combined with solar power operation reduces spare parts requirements, and simplifies network maintenance. Libra remote field stations allow for a complete freedom in station placement, using the same essential configuration for all applications. Libra networks are economical to maintain, also; the nature of a VSAT system eliminates the need for repeaters. Every Libra system uses the same basic elements making installation, commissioning, and maintenance easy. These systems have lower operating costs than similar networks using telephone lines, with cost savings achieved and maintained within 12 to 14 months. The Libra VSAT network is an ideal solution for sustainable and robust Tsunami warning networks of all scales.

The impact of a large Tsunami can occur in a matter of a few minutes and can be as lethal as an earthquake or an erupting volcano. The result can take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and cripple national economies for decades afterward. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami created an increased awareness of this hazard as a definite threat to the wider Caribbean region. The region's seabed is gouged by some of the world's deepest trenches, and these trenches make the Caribbean predisposed to sudden tectonic activity that inevitably triggers tsunamigenic events. The low-lying islands with heavily populated coastlines make the Caribbean region a very high risk area for Tsunamis.

Since June 2005, under the coordination of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, nations bordering the Caribbean seas and adjacent waters have been working to establish a Tsunami Warning Network in the region. A leading institution in this initiative is the Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad & Tobago. A major objective of the SRU is to establish a sustainable and robust seismic network that can rapidly provide accurate detection of tsunamigenic events and issue early warnings for the region.

More information on tsunami warning networks: