Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 9–10, pp 1385–1395 | Cite as

Tsunami Early Warning Within Five Minutes

  • Anthony Lomax
  • Alberto Michelini


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, M w CMT , representing the product LWD and estimated via an indirect inversion procedure. However, the obtained M w CMT 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, T d , and the likelihood, T 50 Ex , that the high-frequency, apparent rupture-duration, T 0, exceeds 50–55 s. We have shown that T d and T 0 are related to the critical rupture parameters L, W, D, and z, and that either of the period–duration products T d T 0 or T d T 50 Ex gives more information on tsunami impact and size than M w CMT , M wp, 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 M w CMT discriminant. Instead, information on rupture length, L, and depth, z, as provided by T d T 0 or T d T 50 Ex , 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, M wpd(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, m b and M wp magnitudes, and the direct, period–duration discriminant, T d T 50 Ex can be determined within 5 min after an earthquake occurs, and T 0, T d T 0, and M wpd(RT) within approximately 10 min. This processing is implemented and running continuously in real-time within the Early-est earthquake monitor at INGV-Rome ( We also show that the difference m b  − log10(T d T 0) 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 



We thank two reviewers for critical comments that greatly improved the clarity of the manuscript. This work is supported by INGV—Centro Nazionale Terremoti institutional funds and by the EC n.262330 NERA 2010-2014 project. The IRIS DMC ( and GFZ Data Archive ( provided access to waveforms used in this study.

Supplementary material

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


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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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