2004 Pacific Tsunami

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  • Tsunamis: Since the late 1600s, according to the National Geophysical Data Center, tsunamis large and small have struck with some frequency -- and sometimes with deadly force -- along North American and U.S. coasts. Tsunamis are mainly generated by undersea earthquakes, but underwater landslides and volcanoes and (rarely) oceanic meteor impacts can also produce them. They may be so small that they can be detected only by sensitive instruments, or so vast, as occurred just two weeks ago, that they travel an entire ocean. The western United States and Hawaii have borne the brunt of waves traveling from both near (local tsunamis) and far (teletsunamis). A 1960 earthquake off Chile, the largest of the 20th century, resulted in a teletsunami that caused widespread damage. Closer to home, deadly waves have resulted from quakes along the 750-mile-long Cascadia fault, which runs from northern California to southern Canada, as well as faults off Alaska. The only major faults in the western Atlantic lie along the Caribbean Sea. In 1929, an earthquake and undersea landslide off Newfoundland produced waves there as high as 21 feet, with smaller tsunamis reported as far south as South Carolina.

  • Tsunamis: Leon Fuerth, in an op ed in the NYT, says that during the second Clinton administration, officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and other government departments approached him with the idea of establishing a"fusion center" for information about natural disasters. Vice President Al Gore championed the idea, which led to the creation of the Global Disaster Information Network. It called for a secure, Internet-based system to help disaster managers around the world plan for calamities and respond more effectively. Because of politics the project was never fully funded. Fuerth suggests that this was because Congress did not want to tporvide money for a project backed by Gore on the eve of the 2000 election.

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