Predicting tsunamis with the world’s fastest supercomputer

The AI model developed by Fujitsu Laboratories can predict flooding forecasts for specific areas, making it easier to evacuate people and offer insights on potential damage to surrounding infrastructure

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When the tragic 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan a decade ago, causing a tsunami that flooded the eastern coast, the early warning system (EWS) relied on dart buoys in the Pacific Ocean to detect tsunami and alert the country.

That system had grossly underestimated the size of the wave to 3-metre high. But, the actual wave reached 50 metres in some places, claiming over 20,000 lives.

The mistaken forecast shows that accurate information is required to predict and mitigate such calamities efficiently. One way to better predict outcomes is by using artificial intelligence (AI).

Japan’s Fujitsu Laboratories has developed an AI model to predict tsunami flooding in coastal areas in real-time. The technology company used Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer, to develop the model.

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A team of researchers generated training data for 20,000 possible tsunami scenarios based on high-resolution tsunami simulations, using the supercomputer. They created the AI model using these data sets.

In the event of an earthquake, inputting tsunami waveform data observed offshore into the model help predict flooding in coastal areas before the wave makes landfall.

This will make it possible to accurately and rapidly obtain flooding forecasts for specific areas and can also offer critical insights into the effects of localised waves on surrounding infrastructure like buildings and roads, according to the company. The system is also said to make evacuation measures more efficient.

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The model can also be run in seconds on ordinary PCs, making it easier to build practical, real-time systems, which previously required supercomputers, Fujitsu Laboratories said.

Fujitsu developed the Fugaku supercomputer at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Japan in 2014, and is said to officially start operating this year. In June last year, the supercomputer was termed the world’s fastest, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than IBM’s machine which stood second in the Top500 list.

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