How Cargo Ships Could Help Detect Tsunamis

By using GPS data to monitor slight changes in elevation, the world’s fleet of commercial vessels could aid in forecasting incoming waves.

This March marked 10 years since the Tohoku earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami off the northeast coast of Japan. Major tsunamis are rare throughout history, but it’s often impossible to know exactly when and where one will occur. But to improve warning, the thousands of cargo ships that traverse the world’s oceans could offer critical, if unexpected, assistance.

While ferrying goods, commercial vessels could leverage their GPS systems to form a distributed network of sensors capable of picking up subtle elevation changes indicative of a passing tsunami, a series

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