The CTBTO’s contribution to disaster risk reduction

Large parts of Tohoku’s coastal regions were devastated by the March 2011 tsunami.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) participated actively in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, from 14 to 18 March 2015.


Sendai is the main city of the Tohoku region which was struck hardest by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. At the time, CTBTO monitoring stations provided data to the Japanese  tsunami warning centre in near-real time. After the ensuing accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, the CTBTO’s radionuclide network helped to assess the nature, concentration and worldwide dispersion of the radioactive emissions.

“You have made this the highest-level meeting on disaster risk reduction in history. ... Disaster risk reduction advances progress on sustainable development and climate change.” The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, on 14 March 2015.
In red: International Monitoring System stations whose data is being used also for tsunami early warning. In green: participating countries. Click to enlarge.

The conference provided an opportunity to meet with disaster experts from CTBTO Member States and to raise awareness about the potential use of International Monitoring System (IMS) monitoring data for disaster early warning, in particular for the quickly detection of tsunamigenic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

To date, around 100 seismic stations that are part of the IMS provide data with a delay of 30 seconds on average to 14 tsunami warning centres in 13 countries.

Takahiko Murayama (right) and Kosei Niino from the Japan Weather Association

The Japan Weather Association (JWA) is exploring an innovative way to use IMS data for tsunami warning purposes. It has discovered that by causing the water's surface to swing like the membrane of a giant loudspeaker, tsunamis generate infrasonic signals in the atmosphere. Since infrasound waves travel considerably faster than tsunami waves, IMS infrasound data could be used to enhance tsunami early warning.

As the Chair of IOC's Working Group on Tsunamis and Other Hazards Related to Sea-Level Warning and Mitigation Systems (TOWS-WG), and also as one of the Vice Chairs of the IOC, I express my deepest appreciation to the CTBTO for the global seismic data provided from its seismometer network, as these data are substantially important for issuing tsunami early warnings. We do look forward to working even more closely with CTBTO in the global tsunami early warning systems.Yutaka Michida, Centre for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo
Yutaka Michida, Centre for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo
With 30 seconds on average between the recording of an event and the signal’s arrival at a tsunami warning centre, the International Monitoring System is faster than other comparable systems.

The CTBTO delegation also held discussions with other international organizations active in the field of disaster warning and mitigation, including the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, Chair of the UNESCO-IOC Early Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions

The CTBTO’s contribution to tsunami warning was mentioned in different panels, including working sessions on early warning and the use of Earth observations and high technology to reduce risks.


Prior to the Sendai conference, CTBTO participated in a meeting of the Working Group on Tsunamis and other Hazards related to Sea-level Warning and Mitigation Systems in Morioka, Japan, from 12 to 13 March, hosted by UNESCO-IOC. Following the meeting, Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, Chair of the UNESCO-IOC Early Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, stated that “Data from CTBTO stations can complement those of local and regional stations for a more timely and accurate determination of earthquake parameters, therefore National Tsunami Warning Centers in the Caribbean are encouraged to include these data into their operational systems.”