Signing of tsunami warning
agreement between
Japan and the CTBTO

PI/2008/07

Vienna, Austria

A tsunami warning arrangement has been signed today between the Government of Japan and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). This is the first fully executed arrangement related to tsunami warning to be signed by the CTBTO.

Tsunami warning arrangement has capacity to save many lives

“Japan has suffered from tsunamis repeatedly in the past. We do not wish this to happen to other countries. This arrangement will enable the North-West Pacific Tsunami Information Centre in Japan to provide Member States in the North West Pacific and Indian Ocean regions with more accurate information and in a more timely manner,” stated Ambassador Yukiya Amano, who signed on behalf of the Government of Japan.

At the ceremony to mark the event, which took place today at the headquarters of the CTBTO in Vienna, Austria, Ambassador Amano also stressed the importance of regional cooperation and said that, while tsunamis cannot be prevented, Japan is now “authorized legally to use CTBTO data to issue a tsunami warning, which we are confident will help save many lives in the case of a tsunami.”

First fully executed tsunami warning agreement

The CTBTO’s Executive Secretary, Tibor Tóth, referred to the symbolism of the signing ceremony, which represents the first “legally consolidated arrangement” related to tsunami warning to be signed by the CTBTO. Bilateral arrangements also exist with Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, which have yet to be formalized. It is also hoped that a similar agreement with Thailand will soon be put in place.

Speed, reliability and precision of International Monitoring System data

Tóth announced that facilities making up the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s (CTBT) International Monitoring System (IMS) send “the speediest, most reliable and highest quality data” especially compared to information transmitted by other organizations, stating that “within 30 seconds, around 90 percent of the information reaches the tsunami warning centre in Tokyo. The average speed for other systems is around 180 seconds.”

Indonesian tsunami

The massive earthquake that occurred off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on 26 December 2004, triggering the tsunami that killed over 240,000 people, was registered within minutes at seismic and hydroacoustic monitoring stations belonging to the IMS. As part of its normal operations, the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna forwarded data from these stations to Member States and the first bulletin listing the catastrophic event was distributed within two hours of the event being recorded.

Need for a tsunami early warning system

Although the networks of many institutions registered the earthquake, no adequate warning could be issued by the relevant authorities to the populations at risk because of the lack of an integrated early warning system in the region. In response to this situation, the CTBTO decided in March 2005 to explore options for releasing IMS data to tsunami warning centres.

Importance of IMS data to tsunami warning centres

Together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the CTBTO has been providing real-time and continuous data on a test basis to four tsunami warning centres since March 2005, increasing their ability to identify earthquakes that could produce tsunamis and enabling them to provide faster warnings. These centres are the North-West Pacific Tsunami Information Centre in Japan, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC), and the Malaysian Meteorological Department of the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation. Based on the success of this test phase, the CTBTO is now in a position to sign formal tsunami warning agreements with Member States. “Fifteen primary seismic and 10 auxiliary seismic stations are able to transmit 100 MB of information per day, which will be extended for tsunami warning purposes,” Tóth announced.

Potential civil and scientific applications of CTBT verification data

The wealth of verification data have a variety of important civil and scientific applications which – in addition to the CTBT’s verification purpose – could contribute to sustainable development and human welfare. The importance of some of these benefits was not anticipated when the Treaty was negotiated.

Other notable potential applications of the data include research on ocean processes and marine life; climate change research; volcanic eruption monitoring for aviation safety; monitoring the seas for shipping hazards such as underwater volcanic explosions and ice shelf break-up as a source of large icebergs. In addition, the data generated by the CTBTO’s monitoring stations can be useful for research on the structure of the Earth, its oceans and the atmosphere.

IMS facilities in Japan

By the time the (CTBT) enters into force, Japan will host ten of the 337 monitoring facilities that the CTBTO is building to monitor compliance with the Treaty. Seven of Japan's facilities have already been installed and certified as meeting all necessary technical requirements and are sending data to the IDC.

For further information on the CTBTO, please see www.ctbto.org or contact:
Annika Thunborg, Chief, Public Information  
T    +43 1 26030-6375  
E    
annika.thunborgping@ctbtopong.org
M    +43 699 1459 6375       
I    
www.ctbto.org