Earth Observation and Tsunami Warning System Seen as Critical to Revitalizing Japan

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Japan is investing in sensors and systems to ensure resilience. The country looks for more real-time feedbacks, and better predictive models, in order to better prepare and reduce impacts from future disasters. The devastating economic impacts, with many people displaced by both the waves and subsequent radiation leaks, have led to a new awareness of risks and impacts. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency lost the earth observation satellite Daichi shortly after the disaster when the satellite lost power. The government has set aside funds for a replacement satellite in their 2012 budget, and are working toward the launch of a new satellite by 2013. This satellite earth observation function is seen as a crucial capacity with its ability to image large areas regularly, a capability that can't be replicated with aerial imagery.

The country is also pursuing a real-time warning system for tsunami that makes use of satellite imagery for quicker forecasts. The idea is that a geostationary satellite linked to sensor buoys in the ocean would provide the ultimate insight and continuous observation links. In addition to the satellite system, the country has begun a terrestrial "emergency tsunami warning system" that will be able to make direct tsunami observations and will be able to forecast the height of waves when they hit the coast. In developing the system, the government is planning to lay cable-connected seismographs and tsunami gauges in more than 150 locations along the sea floor. The latest disaster has spurred additional work in forecasting large-scale volcanic disaster as well, as there are wide areas that are vulnerable, with historic precedent in Japan. The combination of systems and sensors for a more robust disaster preparedness and countermeasure is quickly becoming the global norm as global change impacts increase.

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