Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1495–1507 | Cite as

Simulation and detection of tsunami signatures in ocean surface currents measured by HF radar

  • Klaus-Werner Gurgel
  • Anna Dzvonkovskaya
  • Thomas Pohlmann
  • Thomas Schlick
  • Eric Gill
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Multiparametric observation and analysis of the Sea


High-frequency (HF) surface wave radars provide the unique capability to continuously monitor the coastal environment far beyond the range of conventional microwave radars. Bragg-resonant backscattering by ocean waves with half the electromagnetic radar wavelength allows ocean surface currents to be measured at distances up to 200 km. When a tsunami propagates from the deep ocean to shallow water, a specific ocean current signature is generated throughout the water column. Due to the long range of an HF radar, it is possible to detect this current signature at the shelf edge. When the shelf edge is about 100 km in front of the coastline, the radar can detect the tsunami about 45 min before it hits the coast, leaving enough time to issue an early warning. As up to now no HF radar measurements of an approaching tsunami exist, a simulation study has been done to fix parameters like the required spatial resolution or the maximum coherent integration time allowed. The simulation involves several steps, starting with the Hamburg Shelf Ocean Model (HAMSOM) which is used to estimate the tsunami-induced current velocity at 1 km spatial resolution and 1 s time step. This ocean current signal is then superimposed to modelled and measured HF radar backscatter signals using a new modulation technique. After applying conventional HF radar signal processing techniques, the surface current maps contain the rapidly changing tsunami-induced current features, which can be compared to the HAMSOM data. The specific radial tsunami current signatures can clearly be observed in these maps, if appropriate spatial and temporal resolution is used. Based on the entropy of the ocean current maps, a tsunami detection algorithm is described which can be used to issue an automated tsunami warning message.


Ocean surface current HF radar Remote sensing Tsunami Ocean modelling 



The authors would like to thank EADS and Atlas Elektronik for kindly providing the HF radar data sets acquired at Figueira, Portugal. This work has been supported by the German Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) within its program “Geotechnologien” under the reference number 03G0659A.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus-Werner Gurgel
    • 1
  • Anna Dzvonkovskaya
    • 2
  • Thomas Pohlmann
    • 1
  • Thomas Schlick
    • 1
  • Eric Gill
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of OceanographyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of TelecommunicationsHamburg University of TechnologyHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of Engineering & Applied ScienceMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

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