20.09.2012 - UNESCOPRESS

Progress Towards a Tsunami Early Warning System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas

On 27 and 28 November 2012, the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAMTWS*) will conduct its first tsunami exercise since its inception in 2005 under the aegis of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC).

        Several scenarios of fictitious tsunamis off of the east and west coasts of the Mediterranean and North-eastern Atlantic will be triggered on 27 and 28 November 2012. The aim of this exercise, called NEAMWave12, is to evaluate the technical alert mechanism and the civil protection services when taking the tsunami risk into account. The exercise includes four scenarios of powerful earthquakes in the Mediterranean and in the North-eastern Atlantic. The countries participating in the exercise will choose one or more scenarios, react to the messages received and transmit these messages to the authorities responsible for civil protection. Several countries will also organize a national exercise on the same day or at a later date, involving in some cases local municipalities and decision makers, civil protection and emergency units.   

        The Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas announced the dates and details of the exercise following its ninth session, which took place in Southampton (United Kingdom) on 11-13 September. 

        During this session, the Coordination Group also agreed on the accreditation procedures and requirements for candidate tsunami watch providers at the international level. Three institutions confirmed the operational status of their national tsunami watch centres and their ability to act as Candidate Tsunami Watch Providers, pending their accreditation: the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute in Istanbul, Turkey; the French National Tsunami Warning Centre (hosted by the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission); and the Athens National Observatory (Greece). These institutions can provide watch services and alert messages to any Member State of the region upon request.    

        Italy and Portugal confirmed their intention of setting up national tsunami warning centres and their candidacy for international tsunami watch providers.

        Today, the Mediterranean is being monitored by several national tsunami warning centres: this represents a major step towards the establishment of the tsunami early warning system in the region. For the North-eastern Atlantic the tsunami monitoring will start in 2013.  

        Historically strong seismic activity has been observed in the Mediterranean and North-eastern Atlantic, albeit less frequently than in the Pacific Ocean.

        A powerful earthquake in the Azores-Gibraltar Fault zone and subsequent tsunami destroyed the city of Lisbon in 1755. In 1908, a tsunami took the lives of tens of thousands of people in Messina (Italy). More recently, on 21 May 2003, a tsunami measuring one to several metres struck the coasts of Algeria and Spain (Balearic Islands), also impacting some of the harbours on the Côte d’Azur.

        The Tsunami Early Warning System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas is one of four regional Early Warning and Mitigation Systems which are coordinated by UNESCO-IOC globally. Similar systems already exist for the Pacific and Indian oceans and for the Caribbean. These systems were created to evaluate risks, issue and transmit alert messages and educate the populations exposed to tsunami risks. UNESCO-IOC coordinates the implementation of these systems with an aim to hand the responsibility for the issue of advisories over to the countries of the region through a new regional tsunami advisory service.


*NEAMTWS Member States : Albania, Algeria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom



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