30.09.2013 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Implementation of New Tsunami Advisory Products for the Pacific Ocean in October 2014

Meeting participants in Vladivostok © UNESCO-IOC

The Pacific countries will benefit from new, enhanced tsunami products approved recently by the 25th Session of the IOC Intergovernmental Coordinating Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG PTWS XXV, 9-11 Sep 2013, Vladivostok, Russia).

The testing of the enhanced products started during the Pacific Wave 2011 Exercise (PacWave 11) and continued during PacWave 13 conducted in May this year. The products feature improved text bulletins, maps that show the forecast directionality of the tsunami energy, the forecast position of the initial wave through time, as well as the expected maximum wave amplitudes offshore and at the coast. The graphical products are intended to assist in communicating a tsunami threat quickly and clearly when time is of the essence.

The enhanced tsunami products are expected to reduce significantly the number of areas warned unnecessarily and to help provide advanced notice of potential local tsunamis.

The meeting held in Vladivostok, Russian Federation agreed the transition to the new products on 1 October 2014, when the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) is expected to cease issuing tsunami warning and/or watch bulletins for the Pacific. It means all countries will have to take their own decisions in terms of national tsunami warning status from this date, using, if they wish, forecasts and guidance products provided by the PTWC and Japan NWPTAC. It should be noted that the decision for issuing national warnings has always been a country responsibility.   

The new products are already being issued parallel to the existing products in order to familiarize recipients with their format and content, and also to provide sufficient lead time for training on the new products and for countries to incorporate the necessary changes to the National Tsunami Plans and Standard Operating Procedures.

The ICG PTWS XXV Session also accepted China's proposal to build a South China Sea Tsunami Advisory Centre (SCSTAC) to service the approved sub-regional South China Sea Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System within the framework of the ICG/PTWS.  It noted request from USA to host the next ICG PTWS session in Hawaii in 2015 to coincide with shifting of the PTWC and International Tsunami Information Centre (ITIC) to their new premises.

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