New tsunami arrangements

CTBTO signs tsunami warning agreements with Australia and the Philippines

The Philippines signed a tsunami warning agreement today with the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). This was followed by the signing of a tsunami warning arrangement between Australia and the CTBTO.

At the first signing ceremony, which took place at the headquarters of the CTBTO in Vienna, Austria, Alberto Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, stressed the importance of the agreement, especially in view of the location of the Philippines where tsunamis have caused substantial damage and claimed thousands of lives in coastal areas over the years. He stated that: “The provision of data for tsunami warning purposes will improve the capability of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology to determine the occurrence of a tsunami in the archipelago. It is very, very important.”

Romulo referred to the CTBTO’s 232 monitoring facilities that are already part of the International Monitoring System (IMS) and the 105 facilities that are currently undergoing testing or are under construction, saying that: “The IMS and other related accomplishments of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission since 1996 are a testimony to the near universal support of nations for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its objective to permanently ban nuclear testing.”

The CTBTO’s Executive Secretary, Tibor Tóth, emphasized the symbolism of the arrangement and spoke of the “speed, the quality and the reliability” of the CTBT data on tsunami warnings, which adds two to two and a half minutes to the warning time necessary to alert populations in the event of a tsunami and move them out of affected areas. Tóth explained that the data are particularly reliable: “…because the dedicated communications is very close to 100% compared to 82% of other international arrangements. And the precision of the location of events is much higher as a result of the high density of stations and as a result of standardized equipment and standardized processing.”

Peter Shannon, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations,

signed the tsunami warning arrangement on behalf of the Government of Australia. He called the arrangement: “...an important one for Australia...it’s part of a network that has developed since the terrible disasters that the Asia-Pacific region experienced. The data from Vienna provide the backbone to these national operations.” Shannon stressed the importance of regional cooperation, concluding: “I’m confident that we are not too far away from having really slick regional facilities and cooperation that will put us in the best possible position if there’s another disaster in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.”

How IMS data helps tsunami warning centres

The CTBTO has been providing real-time and continuous data on a test basis to four tsunami warning centres in Australia, Hawaii, Japan and Malaysia since March 2005 in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These data increase the ability of the centres to identify potentially tsunami-generating earthquakes as well as enabling them to provide vulnerable communities with faster warnings. Based on the success of this test phase, the CTBTO is now able to enter into formal tsunami warning agreements and arrangements with Member States. Japan was the first country to formalize such an arrangement on 11 August 2008.

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