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Victoria-based ocean agency picks up real-time tsunami data after Tonga volcano eruption

Volcano’s impact travelled 9,000 kilometres before reaching Ocean Networks Canada’s sensors
This map of Ocean Networks Canada’s offshore NEPTUNE cabled networks shows arrival times of the tsunami waves caused by the Tonga volcano. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Networks Canada)

A Greater Victoria-based ocean monitoring agency’s offshore sensors picked up real-time data on a Saturday tsunami as it surged toward B.C. following a massive underwater volcano eruption in Tonga.

The University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada said its sensors helped relay a variety of data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Jan. 15 even though the eruption occurred 9,000 kilometres away.

As the tsunami moved east towards B.C.’s coast, Ocean Networks Canada’s bottom pressure recorders and high resolution coastal radars captured data on wave height, ocean surface currents and wind direction. The monitoring agency said this data informs alerts that go out to the public and will also help support future tsunami modelling and research.

“Tsunamis generated from undersea volcanos are rare, and measurements of the waves generated are even rarer,” said Kate Moran, Ocean Networks Canada’s president and CEO, in a release. “These data will be used to understand the risk of these types of ocean events.”

The eruption wasn’t caused by an earthquake, Ocean Networks Canada said, but the resulting vibration registered the equivalent of a 5.8 magnitude quake on the agency’s seismic sensors. The incident’s shockwave travelled around the globe three times.

READ: All B.C. Tsunami advisories cleared

READ: Flights sent to assess Tonga damage after volcanic eruption

READ:Greater Victoria municipalities advocate for local emergency alert systems

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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