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UNESCO and the European Commission organise workshop to improve local tsunami warnings

Date: 14 November 2022

UNESCO and the European Commission gathered 70 tsunami early warning and preparedness experts in Ispra, Italy, to discuss the requirements, challenges and opportunities of effective local tsunami warning in the context of multi-hazard disaster risk mitigation. The workshop took place at the EC’s Joint Research Centre, part of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Experts exchanged ideas and best practices on how to improve early warning systems for tsunamis generated not only by earthquakes, but also by volcano eruptions, submarine landslides, and meteo-tsunamis, which are tsunami-like events caused by meteorological or atmospheric disruptions.

Among the key workshop outcomes is preparing the technical ground for a policy brief for Europe on integrated, multi-hazard-oriented coastal community resilience. The workshop also sought to improve the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean (NEAMTWS).

Mr Denis Chang Seng, Technical Secretary of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the NEAMTWS, emphasised that “the joint workshop reinforced important technical and operational discussions evoked during in the last two years within the intergovernmental coordination group for the NEAMTWS, concerning the development of national to local early warning systems.’’.

While the System works with satisfactory performance, more efforts are required to accurately characterize tsunami sources and reduce uncertainties in tsunami warning when scenarios become complex and involve multiple hazards. “Making use of earthquake or volcano early warning systems for less than 1 minute tsunami warning has the potential to reduce the early-warning time drastically. In addition, such integrated and multi-disciplinary systems could provide a solid framework for their sustainability - also in terms of economic efficiency,” stressed Mr Öcal Necmioglu, Science Project Officer at the European Commission’s DG-ECHO Joint Research Centre in Ispra.

Mobilizing efforts for a safer ocean in the Ocean Decade 2021-2030 

Mr Bernardo Aliaga, acting Head of the Tsunami Unit of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), delivered a report on global Tsunami Early Warning Systems and remaining challenges. He leads a global programme as part of the United Nations Ocean Decade 2021-2030 to fill gaps and enhance warning and preparedness against tsunamis through a global, integrated and multi-hazard approach.

IOC-UNESCO is planning to host a global symposium in 2023 to help refine the roadmap for getting global tsunami early warning systems fit-for-purpose in light of increasingly complex risk scenarios.

“The community has gone a long way to build a solid early warning system in place for tsunami, but there are remaining challenges.  The United Nations Ocean Decade Tsunami Programme will help address these challenges,’’ highlighted Mr Aliaga.

The UN Ocean Decade Tsunami Programme encourages governments to seek synergies among different early warning systems and methodologies in dealing with the challenges and requirements of non-seismic sources for tsunami detection.

This is the case of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia  in the NEAM region and of the Indonesian Tsunami Warning System (InaTEWS) in the Indian Ocean. Both institutions are pulling together efforts to integrate local volcano detection and early warning systems, for example in the Stromboli and Krakatau volcano areas, to better detect, monitor and respond to volcano-generated tsunamis.

tsunami workshop

From top to bottom and left right: EC JRC Crisis room; Maurizio Ripepe, University of Florence, Italy, presenting on the Stromboli Volcano TEWS; group picture of the workshop in person participants. Photographs credit: EC JRC (Group photo) and UNESCO.