National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
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FY 2011

Tsunami resilient communities

Bernard, E.N., C. Meinig, V.V. Titov, K. O'Neil, R. Lawson, K. Jarrott, R. Bailey, F. Nelson, S. Tinti, C. von Hillebrandt, and P. Koltermann

In Proceedings of the "OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society" Conference (Vol. 1), Venice, Italy, 21–25 September 2009, Hall, J., D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi: 10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.04 (2010)

A tsunami resilient community is prepared for, and properly responds to, the next tsunami to minimize loss of life and disruption to normal community activities. Key technical elements required to create resilience are evacuation plans, based on tsunami hazard maps, and accurate real-time tsunami forecasts. To produce tsunami evacuation maps requires an assessment of the tsunami hazard from historical evidence or plausible scenarios. To accurately forecast tsunamis in real time requires timely ocean observations from deep-ocean and coastal sea level sensors to generate and disseminate warning and forecast information before the tsunami strikes. Deep-ocean tsunami data, from instruments termed tsunameters, and coastal sea level data, from tide gauges, are assimilated into high-resolution forecast models to provide an accurate forecast of tsunami flooding at specific sites. Presently, there are about 50 deep ocean and 200 sea level stations that provide tsunami data for four regional tsunami warning systems in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. Real-time forecast models can also be used to generate tsunami hazard maps that lead to the production of evacuation maps to guide community resilience activities. To sustain and maintain these regional tsunami warning systems, the concept of a Tsunami Forecasting Framework is introduced as a way to encourage standardization of modeling and observational technologies, to provide a testing environment for introducing and accepting improved technologies, and to encourage scientific engagement through opportunities for research. Future challenges are portrayed as the reality of sustaining tsunami warning systems between destructive tsunamis. Proactive ways a region can support an effective regional tsunami warning system include the creation of a tsunami response and recovery plan that would not only save lives during the hours of tsunami attack, but would save communities during the years of recovery.

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