Successful first test of Tsunami Warning System for the North Atlantic and Mediterranean

The exercise organized on 27 and 28 November to evaluate the functioning of the Tsunami Warning System for the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean and Adjacent Seas has taken place as scheduled. This real-time simulation, based on four scenarios in which earthquakes provoked tsunamis in different regions, demonstrated that the communication system for sending and receiving alert messages to concerned national authorities, worked smoothly.

Of the 39 member countries of the  system (NEAMTWS), 18 participated (Cape-Verde, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France,  Germany, Greece, Ireland,  Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey)

The exercise tested the systems used for relaying warning messages and, in some countries (Germany, Denmark, Egypt, France, Malta, Portugal and Turkey) the readiness of civil protection services. 

Four regional centres were mobilized for the exercise, each reacting to a different scenario. The National Observatory of Athens, for example, sent five messages by fax, email and by the Global Telecommunications System (GTS), which allows the transfer of meteorological data by satellite or via terrestrial meteorological centers.  The scenario was based on an earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Aegean coastlines on 9 July, 1956.

The CENALT (Centre d’alerte aux tsunamis, hosted by the atomic and alternative energies commissariat in France) reacted to a scenario based on a powerful earthquake off the Algerian coast. Four messages were sent by fax, email and GST to NEAMTWS Member States. They were also transmitted to civil protection authorities in France.

The scenario developed by the Kandili Observatory of Istanbul’s seismic research institute (KOERI, Turkey) was based on an earthquake that struck Crete on 8 August 1303 which provoked deadly floods in the eastern Mediterranean. Twelve messages were sent to Member States’ focal points.

Finally, the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA, Portugal) based its scenario on an earthquake and tsunami that struck the west of Gibraltar in 1755. During this exercise, six messages were successfully sent to NEAMTWS member states.

The tsunami warning system for the North Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Adjacent Seas is one of four such systems implemented by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Established in 2005, it has been operational since 2011. The other systems have been set up in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the Caribbean. Their role is to evaluate risks, emit and relay warnings and encourage training programmes for vulnerable populations.

The complete evaluation of last week’s test will not be available for several months.