Tsunami detection by high-frequency radar in British Columbia: performance assessment of the time-correlation algorithm for synthetic and real events

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The authors recently proposed a new method for detecting tsunamis using high-frequency (HF) radar observations, referred to as “time-correlation algorithm” (TCA; Grilli et al. Pure Appl Geophys 173(12):3895–3934, 2016a, 174(1): 3003–3028, 2017). Unlike standard algorithms that detect surface current patterns, the TCA is based on analyzing space-time correlations of radar signal time series in pairs of radar cells, which does not require inverting radial surface currents. This was done by calculating a contrast function, which quantifies the change in pattern of the mean correlation between pairs of neighboring cells upon tsunami arrival, with respect to a reference correlation computed in the recent past. In earlier work, the TCA was successfully validated based on realistic numerical simulations of both the radar signal and tsunami wave trains. Here, this algorithm is adapted to apply to actual data from a HF radar installed in Tofino, BC, for three test cases: (1) a simulated far-field tsunami generated in the Semidi Subduction Zone in the Aleutian Arc; (2) a simulated near-field tsunami from a submarine mass failure on the continental slope off of Tofino; and (3) an event believed to be a meteotsunami, which occurred on October 14th, 2016, off of the Pacific West Coast and was measured by the radar. In the first two cases, the synthetic tsunami signal is superimposed onto the radar signal by way of a current memory term; in the third case, the tsunami signature is present within the radar data. In light of these test cases, we develop a detection methodology based on the TCA, using a correlation contrast function, and show that in all three cases the algorithm is able to trigger a timely early warning.

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Ocean Dynamics