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image of sample framed DOC Gold Medal Award

Oct. 10, 2004 — PMEL has won the Department of Commerce's Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the Department, for the development and successful transfer to operations of a real-time tsunami detection system(DART).

The citation for the award is:
NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and the National Data Buoy Center of NOAA’s National Weather Service have jointly transferred to operations a new moored buoy system, developed by PMEL, to provide accurate and timely warning information for tsunamis. An earthquake and subsequent tsunami on November 17, 2003 provided the opportunity to test the new system, which led to the timely cancellation of a tsunami warning and avoided an evacuation in Hawaii at a cost savings of $68M .

This recognition illustrates the role of a NOAA research laboratory in:

  1. Identifying a major problem in NOAA operations
    (too many tsunami false alarms)
  2. Using science to formulate an appropriate solution
    (detect tsunamis in the deep ocean)
  3. Developing technology to apply the science
    (bottom pressure instruments, acoustic modems, high latitude buoys, satellite communications, systems integration)
  4. Testing the performance and reliability of the technology through incremental prototypes
    (solving intermittent hardware and software problems, redesigns due to component obsolescence)
  5. Transferring the science and technology to NOAA Operations
    (cultural adjustments, training, training, and more training)
  6. Ensuring that the system works as designed to solve NOAA operational problem
    (1 inch tsunami detected in deep ocean, data reported in real time, tsunami warning cancelled)
  7. Raising the funds to accomplish items 1-6.
    (5 states identified the problem)

Relevant Web Sites:
NOAA Center for Tsunami Research (formerly PMEL / Tsunami Research Project)
NOAA Magazine article dated Nov. 17, 2004