Building the tsunami warning system for the Northeast Atlantic and MediterraneanThe Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the NE Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas (ICG/NEAMTWAS-II) will meet in Nice (France) from 22-24 May to review progress on the establishment of the System. The meeting is being organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and hosted by the Government of France, with support from the Conseil Général des Alpes Maritimes.
The foundations for the new system were laid last November at the Coordination Group’s inaugural meeting in Rome, which identified key technical requirements and adopted a plan of action for 2006-2007.
The plan focuses on: enhancing capabilities for multiple hazard and risk assessment; improving warning efficiency based on seismological, geophysical and sea-level information; increasing mitigation ability through coastal planning and raising public awareness of coastal hazards. The ICG agreed to implement trials for key components of the early warning system with the aim of having an initial operational system in place by December 2007.
In a message to the Rome meeting, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura underlined the need to utilize existing European detection networks, harnessing their capabilities for the purposes of tsunami warning. “This strategic approach is essential,” the Director-General said, “since the long-term sustainability of the warning system depends on the multiple uses of detection networks (and) national tsunami warning centres designed to respond to the most frequent types of events occurring in their regions and fully interlinked with national emergency authorities, so that long-term preparedness plans can be implemented and timely warning can be issued by responsible agencies.”
After the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic region has the second highest rate of tsunamis associated with seismic activity. In 1755, the city of Lisbon was destroyed by a tsunami resulting from a major earthquake along the Azores-Gibraltar fault. In another event in 1908, 85,000 people died in Messina (Italy). There are also records of major events along the coasts from Norway to the Marmara and the Black Seas.
The tsunami early warning system for the NE Atlantic and the Mediterranean is part of a global tsunami warning and mitigation system being coordinated by UNESCO-IOC. Similar systems have already been set up in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and are being established the Caribbean.