Home>>Oceanography>>Sonardyne>>Tsunami Detection System

Tsunami Detection System

A tsunami wave in deep water creates a small but measurable change in pressure that will be maintained for as long as twenty minutes. By monitoring any such changes, subsea detectors can be used to trigger an alarm that sends a warning message to a buoy-mounted receiver on the surface. The buoy, in turn, relays the message via a satellite data link to a control centre that can issue a warning to vulnerable communities.




The Sonardyne system is based on a Compatt 5 subsea transponder that uses the latest Wideband acoustic signal technology to provide robust through water communications in difficult acoustic conditions. Compatt 5s are used extensively in the oil and gas industry where their reliability is regularly trusted for use on the most complex construction survey projects.

The Compatt 5 may be deployed in water up to seven thousand metres (more than four miles) deep and it is fitted with a sensor that continuously monitors water pressure, saving data every fifteen minutes. Because a reliable early warning of a tsunami can only be obtained close to the sea floor, the Compatt provides the essential means of sending these readings up to the surface. Every hour the Compatt converts the pressure readings into signals which it transmits acoustically to the buoy on the surface.

The satellite communications transceiver on the buoy then automatically forwards the pressure readings to the tsunami monitoring agency ashore. The system can also receive data from the central control so that revised monitoring parameters can be downloaded to the Compatt if required.

The Compatt is programmed to anticipate continual changes in the pressure of the water as these can be caused by influences such as tides, weather conditions and temperature. As these changes can be predicted, a deviation of as little as 3cm from the expected pattern will switch the device into alert mode. This will cause the Compatt to immediately transmit any data that has been saved during the past hour to the surface. It will then take pressure readings every fifteen seconds which it will immediately send up to the buoy for transmission by satellite to the monitoring organisation. As a result, the first warnings of a tsunami occurring several thousand of miles away can be issued within minutes.

The advantage in using Sonardyne's system over those of other suppliers is that the system is small and self contained and thus easy to deploy. Additionally, the heart of the system, Compatt 5, is based on proprietary technology and the firmware and software can be easily updated and adjusted if necessary.

Modern battery technology and Sonardyne's experience of power management techniques make it possible for the tsunami detection unit to remain in continuous monitoring mode on the seabed for up to four years. At the end of that period, a unique acoustic code is transmitted from a surface ship to the tsunami transponder. A mechanism is then activated which releases the attached ballast weight enabling the Compatt to float up to the surface. It can then be quickly serviced and fitted with new batteries so that it can be re-deployed to resume its watch for the tsunamis that can cause such devastation and loss of life.

Technical Specifications

Feature Type 8141 Buoy Mounted Transceiver
Operating Frequency LMF (14-19kHz)
Transducer Beamshape

Transmit Source Level (dB re 1 µPa @ 1m

196 dB

Receive Sensivity (dB re 1 µPa 95-130dB
Telemetry                   Robust Wideband 1,500 baud (>600 baud user payload) bi-directional
Sonardyne Messaging Service data buffer 128 Bytes
Command/Control Accessed through communications interface
Error Detection & Correction Advanced protocols to minimise data loss and re-sends.
Communications Interface RS232/485 (9,600–115,200 baud) with hardware handshake
Dimensions (LxDia) 585mm x 183mm
Weight in Air / Water 9.75kg / 5.26kg
External power requirement

24-50 Volts dc


Feature Type 8106 Compatt 5 Seabed Tsunamimetre
Depth Rating 5,000 metres ( 7,000m option)
Frequency Band
LMF (14–19kHz)

Transducer Beamshape


Transmit Source Level (dB re 1µPa @ 1m) 187-197dB (3 Levels)
Receive Sensitivity (dB re1µPa) 85-120dB (4 Levels)
Telemetry         Robust Wideband™ 1,500 baud (>600 baud user payload) bi-directional
Battery Life (Monitoring) 683 days
Safe Working Release Load (4:1) 250kg
Dimensions (LxDia) 1103mm x 135mm
Weight In Air / Water 28.2kg / 14.2kg
Pressure sensor 7,000 metres (4,000m option)