Wednesday, October 29, 2008

International Tsunami Warning Excercise Pacific Wave 2008

An international exercise to test tsunami warning systems is currently taking place across the Pacific. Exercise Pacific Wave 08 is testing the distribution of tsunami advisories (bulletins, watches and warnings), by the international and national centres, including the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC).

The exercise scenario uses a fictional Tsunami from a magnitude 9.2 earthquake near Japan on October 29, 2008 at 0000UTC. There is a carefully scripted list of events scheduled at specific times in a detailed 132 page Exercise Pacific Wave 08 Technical Bulletin. The exercise materials are supposed to be marked "For Exercise Purposes Only" to distinguish them from real messages and if there is a major real event the exercise will be cancelled.

Pacific countries are being encouraged to exercise their own internal tsunami warning and emergency response procedures. While messages are issued by the international warning centres, it can take a long time for them to reach the population.

Dangerous Lack of Standardisation in Tsunami Message Format

While the exercise has been carefully planned, one problem with the warning systems remain: there is no standard international format for tsunami warning messages. The formats used for tsunami warnings predate the Internet and were designed for devices such as Teletype machines. As a result there are incompatibilities between the formats and Internet technology which could cause dangerous miscommunication. In addition there is no rigorously defined format for messages.

As an example the exercise document states that "All documentation and correspondence relating to this exercise is to be clearly identified as Exercise Pacific Wave 08 and For Exercise Purposes Only." However, only the first two of the supplied exercise messages include the text "Exercise Pacific Wave 08" and none of the messages include "For Exercise Purposes Only". Such imprecision can cause dangerous confusion, with the exercise messages being mistaken for real ones and real messages for exercises.

International tsunami authorities need to agree one standard format for tsunami messages which has a precisely defined format and wording and is compatible both with the Internet and backward compatible with older communication devices. Failure to do so could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
The initial bulletin will be issued by the NWPTAC because the earthquake is located in the immediate vicinity of Japan. Initial bulletins from PTWC and WC/ATWC will follow, initially using the earthquake parameters from the NWPTAC. To avoid any possible misinterpretation, bulletins issued by the warning centers will be in a “dummy” exercise message format (Appendix I) that will refer participants to a specific scenario bulletin number in this exercise manual (in Appendices II – IV). Dummy messages will be issued for each simulated real message at the beginning of the exercise, but later PTWC and WC/ATWC dummy messages will be issued only once every four hours until the simulated tsunami has crossed the entire Pacific and the exercise concludes. ...

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001
PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 0010Z 29 OCT 2008
THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.
... A TSUNAMI WARNING AND WATCH ARE IN EFFECT ...
A TSUNAMI WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR
JAPAN / RUSSIA / MARCUS IS.
A TSUNAMI WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR
N. MARIANAS / GUAM / WAKE IS. / CHINESE TAIPEI / TAIWAN / YAP /
PHILIPPINES / MARSHALL IS. / CHUUK / MIDWAY IS. / POHNPEI /
BELAU / KOSRAE / INDONESIA / PAPUA NEW GUINEA / HAWAII
FOR ALL OTHER AREAS COVERED BY THIS BULLETIN... IT IS FOR
INFORMATION ONLY AT THIS TIME.
THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY
NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE
DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND
ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.
AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS
ORIGIN TIME - 0000Z 29 OCT 2008
COORDINATES - 40.0 NORTH 143.0 EAST
DEPTH - 33 KM
LOCATION - OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU JAPAN
MAGNITUDE - 8.5
EVALUATION
IT IS NOT KNOWN THAT A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED. THIS WARNING IS
BASED ONLY ON THE EARTHQUAKE EVALUATION. AN EARTHQUAKE OF THIS
SIZE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI THAT CAN
STRIKE COASTLINES NEAR THE EPICENTER WITHIN MINUTES AND MORE
DISTANT COASTLINES WITHIN HOURS. AUTHORITIES SHOULD TAKE
APPROPRIATE ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THIS POSSIBILITY. THIS CENTER
WILL MONITOR SEA LEVEL DATA FROM GAUGES NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE TO
DETERMINE IF A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED AND ESTIMATE THE SEVERITY OF
THE THREAT.
ESTIMATED INITIAL TSUNAMI WAVE ARRIVAL TIMES AT FORECAST POINTS
WITHIN THE WARNING AND WATCH AREAS ARE GIVEN BELOW. ACTUAL
ARRIVAL TIMES MAY DIFFER AND THE INITIAL WAVE MAY NOT BE THE
LARGEST. A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF WAVES AND THE TIME BETWEEN
SUCCESSIVE WAVES CAN BE FIVE MINUTES TO ONE HOUR.
LOCATION FORECAST POINT COORDINATES ARRIVAL TIME
-------------------------------- ------------ ------------
JAPAN HACHINOHE 40.5N 141.7E 0033Z 29 OCT
IOC Technical Series No. 82 Appendix II
page 12
KUSHIRO 42.9N 144.3E 0043Z 29 OCT
KATSUURA 35.0N 140.3E 0102Z 29 OCT
SHIMIZU 32.8N 133.0E 0225Z 29 OCT
OKINAWA 26.2N 127.8E 0319Z 29 OCT
RUSSIA URUP IS 46.1N 150.5E 0118Z 29 OCT
PETROPAVLOVSK K 53.2N 159.6E 0226Z 29 OCT
SEVERO KURILSK 50.8N 156.1E 0229Z 29 OCT
UST KAMCHATSK 56.1N 162.6E 0248Z 29 OCT
MEDNNY IS 54.7N 167.4E 0249Z 29 OCT
MARCUS IS. MARCUS IS. 24.3N 154.0E 0225Z 29 OCT
N. MARIANAS SAIPAN 15.3N 145.8E 0326Z 29 OCT
GUAM GUAM 13.4N 144.7E 0342Z 29 OCT
WAKE IS. WAKE IS. 19.3N 166.6E 0350Z 29 OCT
CHINESE TAIPEI HUALIEN 24.0N 121.7E 0403Z 29 OCT
TAITUNG 22.7N 121.2E 0407Z 29 OCT
CHILUNG 25.2N 121.8E 0430Z 29 OCT
KAOHSIUNG 22.5N 120.3E 0442Z 29 OCT
TAIWAN HUALIEN 24.0N 121.6E 0404Z 29 OCT
YAP YAP IS. 9.5N 138.1E 0417Z 29 OCT
PHILIPPINES PALANAN 17.1N 122.6E 0425Z 29 OCT
LAOAG 18.2N 120.5E 0445Z 29 OCT
SAN FERNANDO 16.7N 120.2E 0504Z 29 OCT
LEGASPI 13.2N 123.8E 0507Z 29 OCT
DAVAO 6.8N 125.7E 0521Z 29 OCT
ZAMBOANGA 6.9N 122.1E 0605Z 29 OCT
MARSHALL IS. ENIWETOK 11.4N 162.3E 0428Z 29 OCT
KWAJALEIN 8.7N 167.7E 0511Z 29 OCT
MAJURO 7.1N 171.4E 0540Z 29 OCT
CHUUK CHUUK IS. 7.4N 151.8E 0432Z 29 OCT
MIDWAY IS. MIDWAY IS. 28.2N 177.4W 0443Z 29 OCT
POHNPEI POHNPEI IS. 7.0N 158.2E 0444Z 29 OCT
BELAU MALAKAL 7.3N 134.5E 0446Z 29 OCT
KOSRAE KOSRAE IS. 5.5N 163.0E 0511Z 29 OCT
INDONESIA GEME 4.6N 126.8E 0519Z 29 OCT
BEREBERE 2.5N 128.7E 0529Z 29 OCT
WARSA 0.6S 135.8E 0545Z 29 OCT
MANOKWARI 0.8S 134.2E 0552Z 29 OCT
PATANI 0.4N 128.8E 0554Z 29 OCT
MANADO 1.6N 124.9E 0601Z 29 OCT
SORONG 0.8S 131.1E 0604Z 29 OCT
JAYAPURA 2.4S 140.8E 0607Z 29 OCT
PAPUA NEW GUINE KAVIENG 2.5S 150.7E 0556Z 29 OCT
MANUS IS. 2.0S 147.5E 0556Z 29 OCT
VANIMO 2.6S 141.3E 0607Z 29 OCT
BULLETINS WILL BE ISSUED HOURLY OR SOONER IF CONDITIONS WARRANT.
THE TSUNAMI WARNING AND WATCH WILL REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL
FURTHER NOTICE.
THE JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY MAY ALSO ISSUE TSUNAMI MESSAGES
FOR THIS EVENT TO COUNTRIES IN THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC AND SOUTH
CHINA SEA REGION. IN CASE OF CONFLICTING INFORMATION... THE
MORE CONSERVATIVE INFORMATION SHOULD BE USED FOR SAFETY.
THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS
FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA. ...

From: Exercise Pacific Wave 08 Technical Bulliten, Commission océanographique intergouvernementale. Exercise Pacific Wave 08. A Pacific-wide Tsunami Warning and Communication Exercise Pacific, 28–30 October 2008. IOC Technical Series No. 82. Paris, UNESCO, 2008. (English)

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kerry said...

I think you have to be meticulous about using words like "meretriciously".

October 29, 2008 11:00 AM

Blogger Tom Worthington said...

Kerry wrote October 29, 2008 11:00 AM :

'I think you have to be meticulous about using words like meretriciously".'

Yes, point taken. Ideally I would like to have my spell checker loaded with a subset of English, so that it would point out when I am using a fancy word (which I may well be using incorrectly). Ideally the system, would then suggest a simple alternative.

Something similar is needed for the Tsunami warning system. The messages should be written with a set, limited vocabulary. Each message should be tested by an automated system to help verify.

October 29, 2008 12:25 PM

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