A congressional panel has voted to continue funding a global tsunami detection system that gives U.S. officials an accurate forecast of when and how big floodwaters will arrive from a distant earthquake.
A House of Representatives’ appropriations subcommittee voted last week to reject a provision in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that would have ended funding of the U.S. deep-ocean tsunami sensor network.
Ending funding for the $12 million would have eventually shut it down, as batteries for the system’s 39 stations, located on sea floors around the world, would run out of power in about two years.
The deep-ocean tsunami sensing system was built after a false tsunami alert in 1986 caused a costly, unneeded evacuation of Honolulu’s famed tourist district, Waikiki, trapping cars in the evacuation zone and costing the state tens of millions of dollars.
The system was modernized and expanded to its latest incarnation after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 235,000 people, underscored the dangers of an inadequate tsunami warning system.
No deep-ocean sensors existed in the Indian Ocean when that tsunami struck, and the disaster led President George W. Bush and Congress to back the creation of a U.S.-led global tsunami sensing system, which increased the number of deep-ocean sensors operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from six to 39.
There are also now 21 other sensors operated by eight other nations. The panel also rejected a proposed reduction in funding for the U.S. tsunami warning centers.