Tsunamis could telegraph their imminent arrival

By Lisa Grossman - WARNING STOP. INCOMING TSUNAMI STOP. Giant waves might one day send scientists such an underwater telegram via telecommunication cables on the ocean floor.

Ocean water interacting with Earth’s magnetic field could create strong enough signals in the underwater cables to alert scientists that a tsunami is on the way, a paper in the February Earth, Planets and Space argues.

“This is a very good supplementary, augmentative system to the existing tsunami warning,” says Manoj Nair, a geophysicist at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and a coauthor of the study. “It can be information in places where we don’t have any information.”

Though tsunamis move tremendous amounts of water at hundreds of kilometers per hour, their passage barely makes a ripple on the surface of the open ocean. But moving huge volumes of saltwater can make another kind of wave below: electromagnetic waves.

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