Why study this topic? The challenges
People have always built their communities preferably near the sea, where the landscape was more subdued, the rivers produced more fertile land for cultivation and the waterways offered an easy and safe way to move and trade. However, since antiquity (see ‘The Peloponnesian War’ of Thucydides) people realised that the sea is associated with various challenges and dangers, one of them being the tsunami waves. These sea waves, that often follow submarine earthquakes, may reach as high as 30 meters with the power of water breaking onto the coastline killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying associated critical infrastructure.
Tsunamis usually occur along active subduction zones after strong submarine earthquakes. However, in addition to being generated by earthquakes, tsunamis may be also generated by underwater or coastal landslides, volcanic activity or, even, the fall of meteorites on earth. Nevertheless, our understanding on tsunamis is still evolving. For example, the mechanism of tsunami generation due to submarine landslides, which currently has a significant impact on the assessment of tsunami risk in coastal areas, entered the “radar” of scientists after the 1998 tsunami in Papua New Guinea. Some of the questions that modern research tries to answer are why some strong submarine earthquakes along a subduction zone produce tsunamis while others do not? How can we improve the early warning system, especially for the Greek area where the arrival times of the first wave after an earthquake are small due to the proximity of faults to the coast? How can we raise public awareness so that people not only know the history of tsunamis in their own region but also know how to evacuate in case of a tsunami emergency.
Our key research activities
- Tsunami catalogue
- Tsunami modeling – Numerical simulations of tsunami waves
- Research on Paleotsunamis
- Tsunami risk assessment
- Awareness and education
Our operational activities, infrastructure and services
- Operation of the “National Tsunami Warning Center” (ΕΚΠΤ) which monitors and warns the Government (eg the General Secretariat for Civil Protection), and the public, in the event of a tsunami following strong submarine or coastal earthquakes.
- Carrying out preparedness exercises for tsunami waves with the participation of the public.
- Participation in the governance of ICG / NEAMTWS / IOC / UNESCO
- ICG / NEAMTWS / IOC / UNESCO National Reference Point for tsunami monitoring in the SE Mediterranean.
- Conducting regular Communication Tests.
- Providing advisory and educational instructions to local authorities on issues related to tsunami risks.