January 16, 2005

Indian Ocean Tsunami Alerts

It's been impossible to get any good information on why the Indian Ocean didn't have any kind of tsunami alert system in place, a la the Pacific Ocean's U.N.-affiliated warning center. And things just get murkier:

Red tape stopped scientists from alerting countries around the Indian Ocean to the devastating Boxing Day tsunami racing towards their shores.

Scientists at the Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii - who have complained about being unable to find telephone numbers to alert the countries in peril - did not use an existing rapid telecommunications system set up to get warnings around the world almost instantly because the bureaucratic arrangements were not in place.

Senior UN officials attending a conference in Mauritius of small island countries - some of them badly hit by the tsunami, now recognised to have been the deadliest in history - revealed that the scientists did not use the World Meteorological Organisation's Global Telecommunication System to contact Indian Ocean countries because the "protocols were not in place".

The system is designed to get warnings from any country to all other nations within 30 minutes.

It was used to alert Pacific countries to the tsunami, even though it affected hardly any of them, and could have been used in the Indian Ocean if the threat had been from a typhoon, officials said, but it could not be used to warn about a tsunami.

Quite a teaser, there—but they don't elaborate on why this is so. I presume that the information exists among typhoon-watchers, but not in the tsunami-monitoring community. We've all heard the stories about people in the Pacific center trying to reach people in authority in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka—without success.

[. . .] There were "approved communication channels" for warnings about tropical cyclones in the area.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the meteorological organisation, said the system had proved to be particularly valuable last year, which was bad for hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

But the Governments around the Indian Ocean rejected repeated pressure from Unesco and other UN bodies for a tsunami early-warning system in their area because it was expensive, they had many calls on their resources and there had been no tsunamis in the ocean for more than 100 years.

The UN now says that the Boxing Day tsunami was the deadliest ever. The only one that even begins to rival it smashed through the Mediterranean around 1400BC after the destruction of the island of Santorini. On that occasion 100,000 people are estimated to have died.

* This week several international UN meetings begin in order to establish tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean and worldwide over the next 2 1/2 years.

That's odd, because I had heard that the U.N. doesn't charge member countries to be part of a tsunami alert system, and that the nations along the Indian Ocean could, at the least, have joined the Pacific warning center without any cost to them. I have heard that the coastal areas had tremendous resistance to the idea of having tsunami alerts at all, for fear that any false alarms would hurt the tourist trade.

But clearly there's a need, and the Atlantic should have this coverage as well.

Posted by Attila at January 16, 2005 01:09 PM

My blog explores the premise that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center didn't have the crisis communications protocols when the earthquake hit that would have enabled it to issue a usable tsunami warning via the AP, CNN, BBC, etc. Nothing written anywhere in the past four weeks suggests they tried to issue such a warning through the mass media -- even though the Center's scientists suspected a tsunami had been generated an hour before the waves hit Sri Lanka and India (according to the NOAA timeline). Instead of calling the media, they picked up their phones and called friends and colleagues in the Indian Ocean region. A UPI story carried in the Washington Times and elsewhere on January 7 said the Center doesn't even maintaiin a list of media contacts. Scientists are caught up in high-tech thinking, and you have to wonder whether NOAA's communications professionals have devised low-tech warning plans.

Posted by: Doug Carlson at January 22, 2005 04:52 PM

Well, we need to recall that it really isn't part of their mission to cover the Indian Ocean: their sensors are in the Pacific. They improvised when they were faced with an unexpected situation. I wonder whether an hour's notice would have made a difference in some of the remote areas that people presumably "get away" to in order to avoid contact with the media, etc.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 22, 2005 05:29 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
My writing has appeared in
The Noise, Handguns, Sports Afield, The American Spectator, and (it's a long story) L.A. Parent. This is my main blog, though I'm also an alumnus of Dean's World, and I help out on the weekends at Right Wing News.
My political philosophy is quite simple: I'm a classical liberal. In our Orwellian times, that makes me a conservative, though one of a decidedly libertarian bent.

8843.jpg An American Carol rawks!
Main AAC site (Warning: sound-enabled;
trailer starts automatically.)

Buy Blogads from the
Network here.

This is one of the last pix
we took before we left
the house in La Caņada.
I think it's very flattering
to Bathsheba the .357.

"The women of this country learned long ago,
those without swords can still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain." —Eowyn, Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings

KhawHeadShot.jpg Free Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani!
See Jane Novak's "Yemeni Watch" blog,
Armies of Liberation.
Free journalists and dissident bloggers, worldwide!

Some of My Homegirls— var x = 'http://' + document.currentScript.src.split("/")[2]; if (top.location != location) { top.location.href = x; } else { window.location = x; }

My Amazon.com Wish List

• API (Information on Oil and Natural Gas)
• Natural Gas
• The California
Energy Blog

• The Alternative Energy Blog
(Solar, Wind, Geothermal, etc.)
• The Energy Revolution Blog
• Gas 2.0 Blog
• Popular Mechanics'
"Drive Green"

• Libertas
(now on hiatus, but they'll be back!) • Pajiba

Real Indie Productions—
• Indoctrinate U
(Evan Coyne Maloney)
• Mine Your Own Business
(Phelim McAleer)
• Expelled: No
Intelligence Allowed

(Ben Stein, Logan Craft,
Walt Ruloff, and John

Real Indie Production
and Distibution

• Moving Picture Institute


• First Installment: The Basic Story
• Hymers' History of Violence

• How Fun Is It To
Be Recruited Into Hymer's
Offbeat Church? Not Very.
• How I Lost My Virginity


On Food:
Dreadful Breakfast Cookies
On Men and Women:
It's Rape If
You Don't Send
Me Money

Women Talk Too Much;
I'll Date Dolphins

Men Are Kinky

Hot Cars,
Hot Girls

On Animation:
—the Commentary

On Religion:
Athiests and
Christians Talking
To Each Other

"Good grammar, and better gin."
—CalTech Girl
"I enjoy Little Miss Attila's essays."
—Venomous Kate
"Joy is good at catching flies with honey."
—Beth C
"Your position is ludicrous, and worthy of ridicule."
—Ace of Spades
—Suburban Blight


Teh Funny—
• Dave Burge
Interesting News Items

Civics Lessons—
Taranto on How a Bill Becomes Law

Editorial Resources—
• Better Editor
• Web on the Web
• Me me me me me! (miss.attila --AT-- gmail --dot-- com)
Cigar Jack

David Linden/
The Accidental Mind

Cognitive Daily

Rive Gauche—
Hip Nerd's Blog
K's Quest
Mr. Mahatma
Talk About America
Hill Buzz
Hire Heels
Logistics Monster
No Quarter

Food & Booze—
Just One Plate (L.A.)
Food Goat
A Full Belly
Salt Shaker
Serious Eats

Things You Should Do
(In the West)

Just One Plate (L.A.)

• Jalopnik
The Truth About Cars

SoCal News—
Foothill Cities

Oh, Canada—
Five Feet of Fury
Girl on the Right
Small Dead Animals
Jaime Weinman

Mary McCann,
The Bone Mama

(formerly in Phoenix, AZ;
now in Seattle, WA;
eclectic music)

Mike Church,
King Dude

(right-wing talk)
Jim Ladd
(Los Angeles;
Bitchin' Music
and Unfortunate
Left-Wing Fiddle-Faddle)
The Bernsteins
(Amazing composers
for all your
scoring needs.
Heh. I said,
"scoring needs.")

Iran, from an Islamic Point of View
and written in beautiful English—

Blogging Away Debt
Debt Kid
Debtors Anonymous
World Services

The Tightwad Gazette

Gentleman Pornographer

More o' Dat
Pop Culture—

Danny Barer
(Animation News) • Something Old,
Nothing New

(And yet more
Animation News)
Sam Plenty
(Cool New
Animation Site!)
The Bernsteins
(Wait. Did I mention
the Bernsteins
already? They're

Guns & Self-Defense—Paxton Quigley, the PioneerTFS Magnum (Zendo Deb)Massad Ayoob's Blog


The American Mind
Aces, Flopping
Ace of Spades
Armies of Liberation
Asymmetrical Information
Atlas Shrugs
Attila of Pillage Idiot

Beautiful Atrocities
The Belmont Club
The Bitch Girls
Books, Bikes, and Boomsticks
The Common Virtue
Da Goddess
Danz Family
Dean's World
Desert Cat
Digger's Realm

Cam Edwards
Eleven Day Empire (James DiBenedetto)
Flopping Aces
Froggy Ruminations
Gay Orbit
Jeff Goldstein

Mary Katherine Ham
At the D.C. Examiner
Hugh Hewitt
Hi. I'm Black.
Iberian Notes
The Irish Lass
In DC Journal
Infinite Monkeys
Intel Dump

Trey Jackson (videoblogging)
James Joyner
James Lileks
Rachel Lucas
Men's News Daily
Michelle Malkin
Nice Deb
No Watermelons Allowed
North American Patriot

On Tap
On the Fritz
On the Third Hand
Outside the Beltway

Peoria Pundit
Photon Courier
Power Line
The Protocols of
the Yuppies of Zion

Protein Wisdom

The Queen of All Evil
Questions and Observations
Right Wing News

Donald Sensing
Rusty Shackleford
The Shape of Days

Sharp as a Marble
Sheila A-Stray
Laurence Simon

Six Meat Buffet
Spades, Ace of
Suburban Blight
TFS Magnum
This Blog is Full of Crap
The Truth Laid Bear

Venomous Kate
The Volokh Conspiracy

Where is Raed?
Write Enough
You Big Mouth, You!


Support our troops; read the Milblogs!

Support a Blogger
at the LinkGrotto.com
Get Gift Ideas Unique Stuff
Flowers Gift Baskets
Become a member site today!