Tech | July 30, 2022 7:18 pm

Could Underwater Cables Help Our Tsunami Response Times?

Early data seems promising

Underwater cables
Underwater cables have a number of benefits.
U.S. Navy

Having advance knowledge of natural disasters can save lives. Someone given instructions to find shelter during an earthquake is better off than someone with no advance knowledge of the same event — and using technology to detect disasters before it’s too late is vitally important. There’s a wide variety of equipment used to anticipate earthquakes — including some phones.

Now, there’s a growing amount of evidence that a similar way to detect underwater earthquakes — as in, the ones that can lead to tsunamis — already exists without needing to install any new equipment. It has to do with the cables that criss-cross the globe and maintain internet connectivity.

In a new article at The New Yorker, Jeffrey Marlow explores the evidence that we might well have a comprehensive tsunami warning system ready to go. It focuses on a 2016 discovery made by scientist Giuseppe Marra, who found that earthquakes can affect fiberoptic cables in minute ways — which, if monitored, could provide advance warning of a disaster.

Marra described using underwater cables for this purpose as “a possible game changer.”

As the article points out, there are some logistical hurdles to seeing if this approach is feasible. But some experimentation Marra and his colleagues have conducted with access to a cable from Google has offered promising results — which makes for welcome news for anyone concerned about disaster prevention.