Friday, March 20, 2009

Fault in Pacific Tsunami Warning System

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) issued a warning 19 March 2009 after a magnitude 7.7 earthquake near Tonga. A small tsunami of 0.04 m was later reported and in all six messages were issued, before the warning was cancelled. While the text based warning messages worked as planned (I received trimmed versions by mobile phone SMS as well), there appear to be continuing problems with the HTML versions on the NOAA web site. The PTWC needs to review its web design to ensure poor formatting is not impeding this important service.

When I attempted to access the PTWC web site at 8:10am this morning the system reported:"Information Alert - Status : 504 Gateway Time-Out -
Description : Lost connection to origin server". The site worked on a second attempt. While the text versions of the warning messages were readable, the HTML versions were blank, with the PTWC page header and side menu, but no warning message. On examining the HTML source code I found a large amount of formatting information and text about last year's tsunami exercise and awareness month commented out, but no current tsunami warning. It is not clear if this excessive formatting and redundant information caused the problem with displaying the message, but it would place an additional and unnecessary load on the system. This problem was previously identified 9 January 2009.

I will be discussing this issue at a seminar on a "National Bushfire Warning System" at The Australian National University in Canberra on 16 April 2009.

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