Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 9, pp 1385–1395

Tsunami Early Warning Within Five Minutes


DOI: 10.1007/s00024-012-0512-6

Cite this article as:
Lomax, A. & Michelini, A. Pure Appl. Geophys. (2013) 170: 1385. doi:10.1007/s00024-012-0512-6


Tsunamis are most destructive at near to regional distances, arriving within 20–30 min after a causative earthquake; effective early warning at these distances requires notification within 15 min or less. The size and impact of a tsunami also depend on sea floor displacement, which is related to the length, L, width, W, mean slip, D, and depth, z, of the earthquake rupture. Currently, the primary seismic discriminant for tsunami potential is the centroid-moment tensor magnitude, MwCMT, representing the product LWD and estimated via an indirect inversion procedure. However, the obtained MwCMT and the implied LWD value vary with rupture depth, earth model, and other factors, and are only available 20–30 min or more after an earthquake. The use of more direct discriminants for tsunami potential could avoid these problems and aid in effective early warning, especially for near to regional distances. Previously, we presented a direct procedure for rapid assessment of earthquake tsunami potential using two, simple measurements on P-wave seismograms—the predominant period on velocity records, Td, and the likelihood, T50Ex, that the high-frequency, apparent rupture-duration, T0, exceeds 50–55 s. We have shown that Td and T0 are related to the critical rupture parameters L, W, D, and z, and that either of the period–duration products TdT0 or TdT50Ex gives more information on tsunami impact and size than MwCMT, Mwp, and other currently used discriminants. These results imply that tsunami potential is not directly related to the product LWD from the “seismic” faulting model, as is assumed with the use of the MwCMT discriminant. Instead, information on rupture length, L, and depth, z, as provided by TdT0 or TdT50Ex, can constrain well the tsunami potential of an earthquake. We introduce here special treatment of the signal around the S arrival at close stations, a modified, real-time, Mwpd(RT) magnitude, and other procedures to enable early estimation of event parameters and tsunami discriminants. We show that with real-time data currently available in most regions of tsunami hazard, event locations, mb and Mwp magnitudes, and the direct, period–duration discriminant, TdT50Ex can be determined within 5 min after an earthquake occurs, and T0, TdT0, and Mwpd(RT) within approximately 10 min. This processing is implemented and running continuously in real-time within the Early-est earthquake monitor at INGV-Rome (http://early-est.rm.ingv.it). We also show that the difference mb − log10(TdT0) forms a rapid discriminant for slow, tsunami earthquakes. The rapid availability of these measurements can aid in faster and more reliable tsunami early warning for near to regional distances.


Earthquake tsunami early warning earthquake location real-time seismology body waves 

Supplementary material

24_2012_512_MOESM1_ESM.xls (63 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 63 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ALomax ScientificMouans-SartouxFrance
  2. 2.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV)Centro Nazionale TerremotiRomeItaly

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