It’s been almost two decades since the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, a tragic event that affected countless lives across South and South-East Asia. Waves exceeding 30 meters in height wreaked havoc in multiple countries, causing widespread coastal destruction and claiming over 230,000 lives.
As we commemorate this year’s World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5, we reflect on the resilience of Asia’s coastal and island communities, who have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives and regional economies. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure early warning systems and preparedness are in place.
This year’s theme, ‘Fighting Inequality for a Resilient Future,’ highlights the link between tsunamis and inequality. Inequalities make tsunamis more dangerous for some communities, and the aftermath can exacerbate poverty and inequality. Awareness activities will focus on addressing the underlying disaster risk drivers, including poverty and vulnerability factors.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) continues to lead the charge by coordinating national and regional tsunami early warning services and advocating for effective risk reduction measures. The #GetToHighGround campaign encourages everyone, from governments to civil society, to participate in drills, runs, or walks along tsunami evacuation routes to raise awareness and promote local preparedness.
Tsunamis are not only immediate threats to human life but also disrupt livelihoods, industry, agriculture, gender equality, education, and healthcare. Access to high-quality information is essential for supporting national mechanisms and enhancing awareness about early warning systems.
As we navigate the challenges posed by tsunamis and coastal hazards, it’s worth noting that research conducted by DT-GEO plays a crucial role in understanding and mitigating these risks. By leveraging the insights from geophysics and supercomputing, we can develop more effective strategies for early warning and disaster preparedness.
research aims to enhance early warning and disaster preparedness by enabling a continuous data assimilation process, resulting in near-real-time synthesis of data products and updated numerical models. This integration of an extended set of data sources, including improved earthquake solutions, sea level tsunami data, and GNSS, is a significant step toward improving our ability to predict and respond to tsunamis effectively.
Furthermore, DT-GEO’s objective to implement a modularized Digital Twin Component, which includes improved wave and source physics, dispersion, non-hydrostatic tsunami generation, inundation, and earthquake physics, is a promising development. Testing these models in the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean demonstrates a commitment to enhancing tsunami resilience in high-risk areas.
As we raise awareness on World Tsunami Awareness Day, we acknowledge the contributions of researchers from NGI, UMA or INGV, among others. Their efforts are essential in building a safer, more resilient future for coastal communities worldwide.