North Atlantic and Mediterranean tsunami warning system put to the test
A simulated tsunami will strike the western and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the North East Atlantic shoreline on 27 and 28 November, to test the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas. The exercise, named NEAMWave12, is organized under the umbrella of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
NEAMWave12 foresees four earthquakes that provoke tsunamis impacting the shores of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. Nineteen of the 39** States that are part of the region’s Early Warning and Mitigation System will take part in the exercise: Cape Verde, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The purpose is to test communication systems that pick up warning signals and, in some countries, the ability of civil protection services to handle such threats.
Four organizations will be in charge of generating the four earthquake and tsunami scenarios for the test: the Kandili Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute of Istanbul (KOERI, Turkey), the National Tsunami Warning Centre (CENALT, France, hosted by the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission), the National Observatory of Athens (NOA, Greece) and Portugal’s Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA). Three of these centres became operational in the summer of 2012.
Tsunamis linked to seismic activity have been observed in the Mediterranean and North-eastern Atlantic over the centuries, albeit less frequently than in the Pacific Ocean. A powerful earthquake in the Azores-Gibraltar Fault Zone and the tsunami it unleashed destroyed the city of Lisbon in 1755. In 1908, a tsunami claimed tens of thousands of human lives in Messina (Italy). On 21 May 2003, a tsunami struck the shores of Algeria and Spain’s Balearic Islands with waves ranging from one to several metres that also impacted ports on the French Riviera.
The Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic is one of four such warning systems coordinated by the IOC. The others are situated in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean. Their purpose is to assess risks, issue and relay warning signals and contribute to the education of populations at risk. The IOC coordinates the operation of these systems which can operate independently of one another.
**NEAMTWS: Albania, Algeria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Mauritania, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom
Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service, Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org