50 years of Tsunami Warning in the Pacific (1965-2015) - 20-24 April 2015


PTWS50logo 130pixels2015 marks 50 years since the establishment of the International Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific, in response to the 1960 M9.5 Chile earthquake and tsunami that killed 100s, without warning, across the Pacific.  The System has evolved and been built up over the decades with contributions from countries and organizations under the framework of the IOC of UNESCO.  Working together, today's System provides timely tsunami forecasts to all countries of the Pacific and its marginal seas.  In April, Hawaii and the USA will host 2 events to both recognize past achievements and forge new priorities for continually improving mitigation and promoting community resiliency to tsunamis.  The IOC, IUGG, and US will sponsor the International Symposium "Making the Pacific Ready for the Next Tsunami" on 20-21 April 2015 at the new NOAA Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island, Oahu, and this will be followed by the 26th Session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/PTWS) on 22-24 April 2015 in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii.   For more information, visit www.ptws50.info

Exercise Pacific Wave 2015 - 2 to 6 February 2015

Forty-two Pacific countries plan to participate in Exercise Pacific Wave 2015 (PacWave15) to test their receipt and use of the PTWC's New Enhanced Products for the PTWS.   Countries will choose from among six Pacific scenarios to receive live international exercise messages from the PTWC and the Japan NWPTAC.  The PTWC products, which became operational on October 1, 2014, are based on numerical forecast models that calculate expected wave heights.  Text products continue to be issued publicly, with additional graphical forecast products sent to country Tsunami Warning Focal Points to aid them in their hazard assessment and warning decision-making. PacWave15 is the fifth exercise since the activity started in 2006. The Exercise is being conducted under the framework of the IOC's ICG/PTWS, and overseen by a task team chaired by New Zealand and ITIC. 

pacwave15 overview feb15 scenarios2

10 years since Dec 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami 

The December 26, 2004 magnitude 9.1 Sumatra, Indonesia earthquake (3.316 N, 95.854 E, depth 30 km) generated a gigantic tsunami that was observed worldwide and caused tremendous devastation and deaths throughout the Indian Ocean region. The earthquake, the third largest since 1900, caused severe damage and casualties northern Sumatra, Indonesia, and in the Nicobar Islands, India. No separate death toll is available for the earthquake as the tsunami followed within 20 minutes. The death toll was probably no worse than for the earthquake of March 28, 2005--that is, fewer than 1,000.

   However, the tsunami that followed killed more people than any other tsunami in recorded history, with 227,898 dead or missing in 14 countries across the Indian Ocean. The worst hit country was Indonesia with 167,540 listed as dead ormissing and damages of $4,451.6 million. The remaining fatalities occurred in Sri Lanka (35,322), India (16,269), Thailand (8,212), Somalia (289), Maldives (108), Malaysia (75), Myanmar (61), Tanzania (13), Bangladesh (2), Seychelles (2), South Africa (2), Yemen (2), and Kenya (1). The total estimated material losses in the Indian Ocean region were $10 billion and insured losses were $2 billion.
2004 1226According to the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service for Geophysics Global Historical Tsunami Event database 2,229 tsunamis have occurred in the world since 2000 B.C. Of these tsunamis, 1,212 are considered confirmed tsunamis. In the Indian Ocean region, 69 confirmed tsunamis have been observed since the beginning of the 18th Century, and 22 (32%) of these events caused deaths. Three of these deadly tsunamis occurred after the December 26, 2004 event. The majority of Indian Ocean tsunamis were generated by earthquakes (88%), the remainder resulted from volcanic eruptions (6%), landslides (1%), and unknown causes (4%).

   In the 10 yeasr since, much has been done by the region to ensure this catastrophy never happens again.  Countries now know what a tsunami is and have prepared communities.  National Tsunami Warning Centers now exist in every country, and they are working with National Disaster Management Offices and local government officials to warn their citizens on impending dangerous regional and distance tsunamis.  A regional international warning system is now in place under the framework of the UNESCO IOC Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, with Australia, India, and Indonesia working together as Tsunami Service Providers for the region.  The TSPs were officially took over in April 2013, replacing the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Japan Meteorological Agency who had provided interim advisory services starting immediately afterward in March 2005.  Over the years, many donors and support organizations worked with country's to build their tsunami warning and emergency response capabilities.  ITIC, working with the IOC, conducted 30 trainings on tsunami warning and emergency response standard operating procedures to assist countries in building their warning systems.

   On November 24-25, 2014, the IOC convened a high-level policy conference  "The IOTWS 10 years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Achievements, Challenges, Remaining Gaps and Policy Perspectives."  Hosted by the Government of Indonesia, the conference brought together coutnries, donors, and experts to recognise the achievements of the last 10 years, to highlight work that still needs to be done, and to seek re-commitment to continued investment in the IOTWS.

PTWC animation shows all earthquakes in sequence at a speed of 30 days per second from 1 December 2004 to 30 November 2014, click here.
Video explains the tremendous strides have been made in tsunami warning capabilities Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, click here.
IOC IOTWS 10th Conference information: Conference webpage, Conference agenda (196 KB), Conference flyer (PDF 881 KB) and IOTWS fact sheet (PDF 752 KB).

Image left above: Tsunami runups in the Indian Ocean produced by the December 26, 2004 Sumatra, Indonesia Tsunami. Data from eyewitness accounts, field surveys, and tide gauges. (Source: National Geophysical Data Center/World Data Service for Geophysics.)

New O‘ahu Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone maps


Over the last few years, scientists in Hawaii have been investigating plausible worst-case tsunami inundation modeling scenarios along the Aleutian Trench. A gigantic tsunami generated in this source region would provide the least evacuation time, approximately 4-5 hours, for Hawaii residents.

In newly released information, scientists report that O‘ahu, Hawai‘i tsunami inundation from a M9.2 earthquake in the eastern Aleutians would far exceed the flooding observed in Hawai‘i from past historical tsunamis. Independent geological evidence on Kaua‘i and in Alaska suggests that such a tsunami was generated sometime in the past 500 years. In response to these findings, the City & County of Honolulu, in conjunction with State, Federal, and community stakeholders, have developed a new set of O‘ahu Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone maps, refuge areas, and evacuation routes. The Extreme maps represent an unlikely worst-case scenario and do not replace the current, standard tsunami evacuation maps, which are based on historical tsunamis. Rather, they add a second evacuation zone for a worst case, extreme, once in a thousand years tsunami event.

O‘ahu residents are invited to attend free public information outreach workshops in November and December to preview and provide comments on new Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone maps. Each workshop will be community-specific. Representatives from the O‘ahu Department of Emergency Management, as well as ITIC and PTWC, will be on hand to present the new maps, discuss the implications for O‘ahu residents, and answer questions.

Caption (left): Eastern Aleutian Trench earthquake (red star)
Caption (right): Proposed Tsunami Map for Waikiki (orange = existing; yellow = additional Extreme evacuation zones)

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1 Waikiki DRAFT web

Click here to view a schedule of workshops and all the draft Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone maps.




View and download Tsunami Safety Rules flyers, click here.

View and download Hawaii Boater's Hurricane and Tsunami Safety Manual, click here.

View and download ITIC's collection of Hawaii maps and posters, click here.



New PTWC Tsunami Products for Pacific started 1 October 2014

PTWCops IMG 8406 crop smlOn 1 October 2014, the US NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) commenced issuance of New Enhanced Tsunami Products for all Pacific countries, culminating a 7-year intergovernmental process coordinated by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) through its Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/PTWS). PTWC retired its Warning and Watch services, and began issuing wave height threat forecasts to country National Tsunami Warning Centers, who will now assess and issue Warnings using guidance from the PTWC, national, and other sources.

Most of the world's earthquakes and tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean and its marginal seas, an area spanning more than 20,000 kilometers east to west.  Over history, the Pacific has had 75% of the world’s fatal tsunamis, with 99% of those casualties from local tsunamis that struck within minutes. On average, the Pacific is hit by a locally damaging tsunami every year or two, and by a major Pacific-wide tsunami a few times each century. Over the past nine years (2005-2014), the Pacific witnessed six destructive and deadly tsunamis that placed Pacific countries in various levels of warnings for local and distant tsunamis. However, since the start of the international warning system for the Pacific in 1965, less than 1% of tsunami deaths have occurred in the far field, as compared to ~17% of tsunami deaths prior to 1965.


Indian Ocean-wide Tsunami Exercise (IOWAVE), 9-10 September 2014


24 countries of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System took part in an End2End IOC smlinternational tsunami exercise on 9-10 September 2014. The exercise, coordinated by the UNESCO IOC under the leadership of Australia and Indonesia, tested the effectiveness of stakeholder communication flows, country readiness, and tsunami emergency procedures. IOWAVE14 was conducted in real time with the IO Regional Tsunami Service Providers (Australia, India, Indonesia) providing notification messages to country National Tsunami Warning Centers for two simulated scenarios, a M9.1 south of Java, Indonesia, and a M9.0 in the Makran Trench, south of Iran and Pakistan. For more information, visit the IOTIC IOWAVE14 web page. For Media reports, click HERE.

Recent events, in brief:


The 12 April 2014 magnitude 7.6 (11.315°S, 162.211°E, depth=29 km, strike-slip faulting) and 13 April 2014 magnitude 7.4 (11.451°S, 162.069°E, depth=35 km, thrust faulting) about 100 km southeast of Kirakira, Solomon Islands generated small, non-destructive local tsunamis. This region is characterized transitional transform tectonics from thrust faulting along New Britain Trench to the northwest to thrust faulting along the New Hebrides Trench to the southeast. The events triggered regional tsunami warning alerts by the PTWC, which cancelled their alerts 1-2 hrs later when only 20-30 cm wave were observed at the Honiara sea level gauge.

Tsunamis recorded on nearby coastal sea level gauges in the Solomon Islands (Honiara, Lata Wharf), Vanuatu (Luganville, Port Vila), and New Caledonia (Hienghene, Lifou, Ouinne). Courtesy M. Yamamoto.
Solomon tsunami on 12April2014 Solomon tsunami on 13April2014

12apr14 regional PTWC RIFT M7.55 coastal amp1 2

PTWC RIFT coastal tsunami forecast available ~30 min after the earthquake.



The 1 April 2014 magnitude 8.2 Mw Northern Chile earthquake (19.642 S, 70.817 W, depth 20 km) occurred at 2347 UTC and generated a tsunami that was observed all over the Pacific region and caused damage locally. According to  news reports, there were at least 7 dead due to the earthquake ground shaking and over 200 injured. There was tsunami port damage reported at the nearest city of Iquique, Chile, 79 km away from the epicenter and inundation along the coasts of Pisagua and Arica. In February 2010, a magnitude 8.8 Mw located near the central coast of Chile generated a tsunami that caused 156 fatalities.

According to the USGS, the 1 April 2014 earthquake off the Chilean coast occurred as a result of shallow depth thrust faulting slip on the primary plate boundary interface between the Nazca and South American plates. In the region of the earthquake, the Nazca plate subducts eastward beneath the South American plate at a rate of 65 mm/yr.

For more technical information, visit this tsunami's event page (click here).

PTWC RIFT tsunami forecast animation showing tsunami waves as they propagate across the Pacific.


Report Your Tsunami Experience

Hilo, TsunamiDid you see, hear, or feel the tsunami?
Please tell us about your experience!

We are interested in receiving eyewitness observations, photos, videos, and scientific data on all tsunamis. 

Download the questionnaire
and send it to us via e-mail, fax or mail.

E-mail:  itic.tsunami@noaa.gov
Fax: +1 <808> 725-6055
Postal Address:
International Tsunami Information Center
1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg. 176
Honolulu, HI 96818


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Featured Resources

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Regional Disaster Information Center (Latin America & the Caribbean)

A database of Spanish language materials focused on tsunami preparedness.
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Post-Tsunami Survey:
El Salvador Summary Video

Learn the basics of a post-tsunami survey.

TsunamiTeacher USA
Tsunami Basics

Also on YouTube youtube_logo
(w/closed captioning)

Learn the basics of tsunamis. Available in English and Samoan.

Tsunamis on the Move

Tsunami Awareness Poster

Awareness poster available in English, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Singalese.


Global Hazard Maps

Posters of Tsunami Sources, Significant Earthquakes and Significant Volcanic Eruptions. Also Tsunami Sources Icosohedron Globe.

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Tsunami, The Great Waves

Available in English, Spanish, French and Chinese.


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Tsunami Glossary

Available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Bahasa. 



Where the First Wave Arrives in Minutes

Available in English, Bahasa, Spanish and French.


DVD copies for PC and Macintosh computers are available free of charge from the ITIC, Hawaii (itic.tsunami@noaa.gov).

Hosted by:
UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE Oostende, Belgium
© 2015 International Tsunami Information Center | A UNESCO/IOC-NOAA Partnership
1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA | Tel: +1 808 725 6050 | Fax: +1 808 725 6055