Tsunami Message Definitions


The U.S. Tsunami Warning Centers issue tsunami messages to notify emergency managers, the public, and other partners about the potential for a tsunami following a possible tsunami-generating event. To provide messages as early as possible, the warning centers use preset criteria based on preliminary earthquake information (Atlantic, Pacific), before a tsunami is detected, to help them decide when and for where to issue tsunami messages and what alert(s) to include. Subsequent messages and alerts are based on impact estimation resulting from additional seismic analysis, water-level measurements, tsunami forecast model results, and historical tsunami information.

Examples of tsunami messages


Domestic Tsunami Messages

Domestic tsunami messages are issued for U.S. and Canadian coastlines and the British Virgin Islands. These messages include alerts and also serve to cancel alerts, when appropriate. There are four levels of tsunami alerts: warning, advisory, watch, and information statement. Each has a distinct meaning relating to local emergency response. Recommended protective actions vary within areas under warnings and advisories. Be alert to and follow instructions from local emergency officials because they may have more detailed or specific information.

Alert Level Potential Hazard(s) Action
warning image

Warning

Dangerous coastal flooding and powerful currents Move to high ground or inland
advisory image

Advisory

Strong currents and waves dangerous to those in or very near water Stay out of water, away from beaches and waterways
watch image

Watch

Not yet known
  • Stay tuned for more information
  • Be prepared to act
information image

Information
Statement

No threat or very distant event for which hazard has not been determined No action suggested at this time

Tsunami Warning – A tsunami warning is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring. Warnings alert the public that dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after initial arrival. Warnings alert emergency management officials to take action for the entire tsunami hazard zone. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Warnings may be updated, adjusted geographically, downgraded, or canceled based on updated information and analysis.

Tsunami Advisory – A tsunami advisory is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is imminent, expected, or occurring. The threat may continue for several hours after initial arrival, but significant inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include closing beaches, evacuating harbors and marinas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Advisories may be updated, adjusted geographically, upgraded to a warning, or cancelled based on updated information and analysis.

Tsunami Watch – A tsunami watch is issued when a tsunami may later impact the watch area. The watch may be upgraded to a warning or advisory or canceled based on updated information and analysis. Emergency management officials and the public should prepare to take action.

Tsunami Information Statement – A tsunami information statement is issued when an earthquake or tsunami has occurred of interest to the message recipients. In most cases, information statements are issued to indicate there is no threat of a destructive basin-wide tsunami and to prevent unnecessary evacuations. Information statements for distant events requiring evaluation may be upgraded to a warning, advisory, or watch based on updated information and analysis.

A cancellation is issued after an evaluation of water-level data confirms that a destructive tsunami will not impact an area under a warning, advisory, or watch or that a tsunami has diminished to a level where additional damage is not expected.


International Tsunami Messages


International tsunami messages are issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to international partners in the Pacific and Caribbean and Adjacent Regions for guidance only in support of the UNESCO/IOC Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System and the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions. There are two types of international tsunami messages: tsunami threat messages and information statements. These messages do not include alerts. The primary purpose of these messages is to help national authorities understand the threat to their coasts so they can determine which alerts to issue for their coastlines, if any.

Alert Level Potential Hazard(s) Action
warning image

Threat

Dangerous coastal flooding and/or powerful currents Get more information, follow instructions from national and local authorities
information image

Information
Statement

Minor waves at most No action suggested

Tsunami Threat Message – A tsunami threat message is issued to national authorities when a tsunami may affect their coasts. It describes the tsunami threats according to the potential hazard and impact to people, structures, and ecosystems on land or in nearshore marine environments. National authorities will determine the appropriate level of alert for each country and may issue additional or more refined information and instructions. Threat messages may be updated based on new information, data and analysis.

A final tsunami threat message is issued when the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center determines there is no further threat.

Tsunami Information Statement – A tsunami information statement is issued to national authorities when an earthquake or tsunami has occurred of interest to the message recipients. In most cases, information statements are issued to indicate there is no threat of a tsunami and to prevent unnecessary evacuations. Information statements may be upgraded to tsunami threats based on updated information and analysis.