Japan Ground Civil-Defense Force members search for tsunami victims in JapanMarch 14, 2011. (Kyodo News, AP)

USA - New tsunami warning system uses artificial intelligence

The killer waves came with little warning. One of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded human history – a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in Asia in 2004 – took most victims by complete surprise. Closer to home, large tsunamis have occurred in the U.S. and will undoubtedly occur again, the U.S. Geological Survey warned.

Worldwide, tsunamis remain among nature's most fearsome natural disasters.

Now, thanks in part to artificial intelligence, scientists are working on a new early warning system to provide coastal residents with more lead time ahead of a potentially deadly tsunami.

According to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, an early warning system is being developed that combines "state-of-the-art acoustic technology with AI to immediately classify earthquakes and determine potential tsunami risk," the study said.

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'Highly destructive events'

"Tsunamis can be highly destructive events causing huge loss of life and devastating coastal areas, resulting in significant social and economic impacts as whole infrastructures are wiped out," said study co-author Usama Kadri of Cardiff University in Wales.

The new research used sound recordings captured by underwater microphones, called "hydrophones," to measure the acoustic radiation produced by 200 earthquakes that happened in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

"Our study demonstrates how to obtain fast and reliable information about the size and scale of tsunamis by monitoring acoustic-gravity waves, which travel through the water much faster than tsunami waves, enabling more time for evacuation of locations before landfall," Kadri said.

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What type of earthquake is it?

Underwater earthquakes can trigger tsunamis if a large amount of water is displaced, so determining the type of earthquake is critical to assessing the tsunami risk.

There are two types of underwater earthquakes, and only one can produce tsunamis, researchers say.

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