OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Byrne lecture at OSU: Tsunami expert to link Asian disaster, PNW

04/21/2005

CORVALLIS - No one is certain when, but the kind of deadly mega-earthquake and tsunami that struck southeast Asia in December may also happen in the Pacific Northwest.

What has been learned from the Asian tsunami and what can be done to help the U.S. - and the world - better prepare for future tsunamis? Oceanographer Eddie Bernard, a national leader on these issues, will give a free public talk on the subject at Oregon State University on May 2.

Bernard's talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center. It is part of the John Byrne Lecture Series, sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant and the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has substantial professional experience with tsunamis. In the 1970s he developed numerical models to study the dynamics of tsunamis; he directed the National Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu from 1977-80; and more recently he chaired the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics' Tsunami Commission.

For all his experience, Bernard said that the December tsunami in Asia has caused him and others in the field to reassess what they know about tsunamis, and in particular, what they think can happen should a similar tsunami strike the Pacific Northwest coast, which has similar geologic characteristics.

"Many people have seen the pictures of the huge waves as they hit Thailand," he noted. "But Thailand didn't get the worst of it, Indonesia did. And what happened there sets the stage for what we could expect to happen here. The waves were bigger than we thought - some more than 100 feet high at Banda Aceh (Indonesia); and the inundation lasted hours."

Bernard's Byrne lecture will present a scientist's perspective on what happened and what is being learned from the Asian tsunami, what the implications for the Northwest are, and what federal, state, and local governments are doing to prepare for and protect people and property from a major tsunami. The talk will be illustrated with photos and video, and is intended for a broad public audience.

Bernard has served as director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, one of NOAA's Oceanographic Research Laboratories, since 1983. He directs a broad range of oceanographic research programs including ocean climate dynamics, fisheries oceanography, El Niño forecasts, and seafloor spreading, as well as tsunamis.