Tsunami Smith

In 1998 the former chief meteorologist of Thailand said “a tsunami is going to occur for sure”. Smith Dharmasaroja was called a mad dog for that. On Sunday 26 December 2004, after the earthquake but before the tsunami hit Thailand, he tried again to warn the Thai meteorological department, but could not get them to respond. (A case of denial and damage, just as happened years before in the U.S. regarding hurricanes.)

How did Mr. Smith know? He didn’t accept the received wisdom that earthquakes off Indonesia would only happen on the other side of Sumatra from Thailand. He studied seismology and discovered there was a fault line that would put the Thai tourist resort Phuket in the direct path of a tsunami. His public warning in 1998 was after a tsunami from the same fault hit Papua New Guinea (the Aitapa tsunami of Friday 17 July 1998; there was no tsunami warning system for that part of the Pacific at that time, either).


"You’d really have to go digging into very old historical records and the scientific literature and extrapolate from what’s there to find that yes, there could be effects (leading to tsunamis) in Thailand," says Phil Cummins, a seismologist who studies the region at Australia’s national geological agency. "But he was correct."

Such an earthquake did occur and the resulting tsunami hit Phuket.

Two weeks after the 2004 tsunami, the Thai government called Smith Dharmasaroja out of retirement to head its new tsunami warning system.

The economic damages of the 2004 tsunami are estimated at $14 billion by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer. Maybe it would be prudent to do some historical exploration and to set up an early warning system for Internet events that could cause $50 to $100 billion in economic damages.


2 thoughts on “Tsunami Smith

  1. John C. Griffin

    Hindsight is 23/22 or something like
    that depending upon the source. Now
    that CNN, FOX, BBC, and all the media
    grandstands have camps near the epicenter,
    there will be more emphasis upon tsunami
    forecasts. Regarding media, my prediction
    is that the 2005 Super Bowl will do a
    natural disaster pregame show feature this year. Corporate sponsors often influence
    what goes on with regard to environment,
    business, and natural disaster followup.

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