Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
02 Feb 2010
 | 02 Feb 2010

Near real-time GPS applications for tsunami early warning systems

C. Falck, M. Ramatschi, C. Subarya, M. Bartsch, A. Merx, J. Hoeberechts, and G. Schmidt

Abstract. GPS (Global Positioning System) technology is widely used for positioning applications. Many of them have high requirements with respect to precision, reliability or fast product delivery, but usually not all at the same time as it is the case for early warning applications. The tasks for the GPS-based components within the GITEWS project (German Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System, Rudloff et al., 2009) are to support the determination of sea levels (measured onshore and offshore) and to detect co-seismic land mass displacements with the lowest possible latency (design goal: first reliable results after 5 min). The completed system was designed to fulfil these tasks in near real-time, rather than for scientific research requirements. The obtained data products (movements of GPS antennas) are supporting the warning process in different ways. The measurements from GPS instruments on buoys allow the earliest possible detection or confirmation of tsunami waves on the ocean. Onshore GPS measurements are made collocated with tide gauges or seismological stations and give information about co-seismic land mass movements as recorded, e.g., during the great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of 2004 (Subarya et al., 2006). This information is important to separate tsunami-caused sea height movements from apparent sea height changes at tide gauge locations (sensor station movement) and also as additional information about earthquakes' mechanisms, as this is an essential information to predict a tsunami (Sobolev et al., 2007).

This article gives an end-to-end overview of the GITEWS GPS-component system, from the GPS sensors (GPS receiver with GPS antenna and auxiliary systems, either onshore or offshore) to the early warning centre displays. We describe how the GPS sensors have been installed, how they are operated and the methods used to collect, transfer and process the GPS data in near real-time. This includes the sensor system design, the communication system layout with real-time data streaming, the data processing strategy and the final products of the GPS-based early warning system components.