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Natural Hazard Early Warning Systems Improved Using GPS Data


_67670455_011556095Scientists claim that the Global Positioning System (GPS) could save millions of lives by providing detailed information about upcoming natural hazards before they have occurred.

As the effects of climate change are continuously accelerating, ice sheets are melting, sea level is rising and atmospheric currents are changing, we keep hearing about more and more cases of tsunamis, tornadoes and earthquakes with devastating consequences.

A team of German scientists from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences conducted a detailed study, showing that GPS data can provide vital information to improve early warning systems and allow faster and more effective response to tsunamis. The findings were published in the journal of Natural Hazards and Earth Systems Sciences.

Dr. Andreas Hoechner, the lead author of the study, explains that relative displacement of tectonic plates during an earthquake can be detected with GPS. Once this has occurred, it is possible to predict where a tsunami can hit and how high the wave will be.

The study used GPS data from the recent tsunami event in Japan, which caused the Fukushima disaster and killed 16,00 people. The researchers claim that if these data were used prior to the event, many of these lives could have been saved.

At the moment, countries like Chile and the US are already installing GPS networks to improve their early warning systems.

Dr. Hoechner and his team, however, point out that new and improved technology is not the only way to prevent the devastating consequences. Governments should have clear evacuation plans and infrastructure that can allow transmitting the information to the public in the most effective way.

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