Monday, March 10, 2008

Mediterranean Tsunami Warning System Needed

After the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami the United Nations coordinated the establishment of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. Less well known (and less well established) is the North Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected Seas Tsunami Warning System (NEAMTWS). The need for such a facility became more urgent with recent research from the University of Cambridge showing that Tsunami in the Mediterranean of the magnitude of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami are far more frequent than previously thought.

The NEAMTWS is intended to alert Europe, North African and Middle Eastern countries. As with the Indian Ocean system, there is an email list provided by UNESCO which can be subscribed to for receiving warnings. However, given the small size of areas such as the Mediterranean, the warning time for a Tsunami could be very short and faster means of communication should be used by government and official emergency management organizations.

There appears to be a dangerious lack of progress with the NEAMTWS . The latest meeting was 21 – 23 November 2007. The meeting was to consider Version 3.2 of the implementation plan (summary appended). However, all the meeting report says is: "Please check back here in the next few days for the meeting summary report.".

The plan appears to be a well researched, but it is no substitute for action. Professionals involved, including ICT professionals, need to keep in mind that failure to act on such a clear and present danger is unethical, and may in addition expose them to civil and criminal prosecution in the event of a disaster.

The complex system of regional, national and local systems does not make for an effective system and may need to be rethought. A system which sends warnings directly from those detecting them, to the citizens may be better. The bureaucrats and politicians who would object to this need to keep in mind they may face a lynch mob in the event of large loss of life.

This Implementation Plan for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (NEAMTWS) specifies detailed requirements of the design and implementation of the tsunami warning and mitigation system for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas. Following its initial phase, the warning system is intended to apply to other marine-related hazards in addition to tsunamis, in particular storm surges, both causing i.e coastal inundation. As the requirements are developing and therefore still are subject to changes or modifications, and as the implementation will progress, this Implementation Plan is a dynamic document. In constant use and development, it will only represent the status of the system at a specific time of viewing. As a living document it will be available on the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) web site and subsequent versions will be distributed at Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG)/NEAMTWS meetings.

The Implementation Plan is structured to reflect the ICG and its Working Groups, WG 1 (Hazard Assessment, Risk and Modelling), WG 2 (Seismic and Geophysical Measurements), WG 3 (Sea Level Data Collection and Exchange, including Offshore Tsunami Detection and Instruments), and WG 4 (Advisory, Mitigation and Public Awareness).

After a status summary, details are condensed in Action Plans for all components of the system. Capacity building is explicitly addressed to highlight the importance of training and extend the basis of the people involved in operating the system at all levels. Reflecting the work as its progresses there are parts that are not yet as detailed as required.

The Implementation Plan is only one of the documents that describe the NEAMTWS and help in managing it. Others are, or will be available.

The NEAMTWS is a complex operation owned and operated by Member States through their designated agencies. Besides the national functions these agencies serve as conduits for information within the system that is amongst all participating partners. These are further augmented into international, mostly regional, functions that serve an agreed regional ensemble of member states. These functions need particular attention for the system to perform as a whole.

The performance of the NEAMTWS depends on the implementation of all its components, their sustained operation and the adherence to agreed common principles of operation, interaction and data policy. This performance needs to be monitored in order to improve the NEAMTWS, identify deficiencies and suggest remedial action. A real test of the NEAMTWS may happen only rarely. But it will then highlight the credibility of the system and all its participating partners. The public will only judge the performance or the success of the system from the impact, the loss of lives and the damages that occurred.

The timely and appropriate implementation of the NEAMTWS is crucial to its success. Recent events have shown that time to prepare, implement and train is short as the events are unpredictable. In its implementation priorities, requirements and details will change or have to be adapted. Member States are therefore asked to prioritize details they feel need special attention on both the national and international level. They also are invited to provide guidance as to further developing governance mechanisms for the NEAMTWS.

From: Implementation Plan, North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, NEAMTWS,
Version 3.2, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Technical Series 73, 24 July 2007

1 comment:

Tom Worthington said...

Paper on overdue Mediterranean tsunami:
Nature Geoscience
Published online: 9 March 2008 | doi:10.1038/ngeo151

Eastern Mediterranean tectonics and tsunami hazard inferred from the AD 365 earthquake

B. Shaw1, N. N. Ambraseys2,3, P. C. England4, M. A. Floyd4, G. J. Gorman5, T. F. G. Higham6, J. A. Jackson1, J.-M. Nocquet7, C. C. Pain5 & M. D. Piggott5

Historical accounts describe an earthquake and tsunami on 21 July AD 365 that destroyed cities and drowned thousands of people in coastal regions from the Nile Delta to modern-day Dubrovnik. The location and tectonic setting of this earthquake have been uncertain until now. Here, we present evidence from radiocarbon data and field observations that western Crete was lifted above sea level, by up to 10 m, synchronously with the AD 365 earthquake. The distribution of uplift, combined with observations of present-day seismicity, suggest that this earthquake occurred not on the subduction interface beneath Crete, but on a fault dipping at about 30° within the overriding plate. Calculations of tsunami propagation show that the uplift of the sea floor associated with such an earthquake would have generated a damaging tsunami through much of the eastern Mediterranean. Measurement of the present rate of crustal shortening near Crete yields an estimate of approx5,000 yr for the repeat time of tsunamigenic events on this single fault in western Crete, but if the same process takes place along the entire Hellenic subduction zone, such events may occur approximately once every 800 yr.
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1. Bullard Laboratories, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0EZ, UK
2. Department of Civil Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK
3. The Academy of Athens, Athens 10679, Greece
4. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PR, UK
5. Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK
6. Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
7. CNRS-Géosciences Azur, University of Nice, 250, Rue Albert Einstein, Valbonne, 06560, France

Paper at: