The geological disaster of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean was followed by a communications-related catastrophe as crucial early warning information could not be delivered to communities under imminent threats. This tragedy triggered various international efforts for the conception, (re-)design and implementation of early warning systems. In close cooperation with authorities, research institutions are working intensively on the design and optimisation of early warning systems for natural disasters. In the course of these activities several complementary projects addressed scientific research and ICT challenges for the implementation of tsunami early warning systems thus providing the basis for a development started in early 2014.
The warning system architecture has been specifically addressed in two complementary projects. The objectives of the first project included the design and implementation of an operational warning system and also training and capacity building activities. The first project explicitly introduced the multi-sensor approach into near-field tsunami warning systems. With a response time of 2-3 min, the seismic system is a core component of near-field tsunami warning systems. The integration of continuous near real-time GPS arrays is important for the acceleration of earthquake detection. Other sensor systems, GPS-buoys and coastal tide gauges provide direct measurements on wave propagation and thus further constrain forecasting uncertainty. In order to integrate these heterogeneous upstream sensor data flows, an integration platform with standards based services for sensor systems has been implemented. Complementary to the first project the second project addressed the downstream flow of information from a tsunami warning system to different types of message recipients. For this purpose procedures and components for the dissemination of customised warning messages and tsunami bulletins in a multilingual environment, suited for a broad range of individual message recipients, have been developed.
Additionally, the information flow between national tsunami warning systems in hazard prone regions has been analysed and a basic concept for a wide area warning centre-to-centre communication has been developed. Both projects delivered contributions for the drafting and promotion of an initial concept for a service platform for tsunami warning systems and developed a set of modules for the construction of warning centres in general. These results provided substantial input for the third project focusing on new concepts for real-time intelligent information management with a robust and scalable infrastructure supporting the management of crisis situations. The event-driven behaviour has been of special importance for the design and the core components of the architecture. Additionally, approaches integrating social media, crowd-sourcing, and crisis-mapping have been considered for the decision making in natural disasters to achieve situational awareness during hazardous events with in-time, in-situ 'human sensors'.
Based on the experiences and the knowledge gained in the three research projects new technologies are now exploited to implement a cloud-based and web-based platform to open up new prospects for early warning and fast response systems for natural hazards.
GeoPeril merges complementary external and in-house cloud-based services into one platform for automated background computation, for web-mapping hazard-specific geospatial data, and for serving relevant functionality to handle, share, and communicate threat-specific information in a collaborative and distributed environment.
GeoPeril merges complementary external and in-house cloud-based services into one platform for automated background GPU computation, for web-mapping of hazard specific geospatial data, and for serving relevant functionality to handle, share, and communicate threat specific information in a collaborative and distributed environment.
Operators in warning centres and stakeholders of other involved parties just need a standard web browser to access the early warning and fast response system in the cloud. The platform can be accessed in two different modes, the monitoring mode and the exercise-and-training mode. The monitoring mode provides important functionality required to act in a real event. So far, the monitoring mode integrates historic and real-time sea level data and latest earthquake information for tsunami early warning purposes. The exercise-and-training mode enables training and exercises with virtual scenarios. This mode disconnects real world systems and connects with a virtual environment that receives virtual earthquake information and virtual sea level data re-played by a scenario player. Thus operators and other stakeholders are able to train skills and prepare for real events and large exercises.
The integration of GPU accelerated tsunami simulation computations have been an integral part to foster early warning with on-demand tsunami predictions based on actual source parameters. Thus tsunami travel times, estimated times of arrival and estimated wave heights are available immediately for visualization and for further analysis and processing. The generation of warning messages is based on internationally agreed message structures and includes static and dynamic information based on earthquake information, instant computations of tsunami simulations, and actual measurements. Generated messages are served for review, modification, and addressing in one simple form for dissemination via Cloud Messages, Shared Maps, e-mail, FTP/GTS, SMS, and FAX. Cloud Messages and Shared Maps are complementary channels and integrate interactive event and simulation data. Thus recipients are enabled to interact dynamically with a map and diagrams beyond traditional text information.
In early 2014 the platform has been developed from scratch. But the knowledge and concept behind have been grown over many years by implementing predecessor systems in different research projects. Due to the resources already spent and due to the finite nature of this type of activities it is worth to preserve, maintain, and further develop achieved results. But allowing others to reuse results achieved and enabling further development and collaboration with a wide community including scientists, developers, users and stakeholders is only possible in an active, healthy, and professionally maintained free and open source software community. Moreover the platform has been developed in a scientific context influenced by humanitarian activities. So results should be given back and contributed for the good of society.
At present the platform focuses on early warning and fast response for tsunami. It is aimed to integrate successively further functionality so that other natural hazards and man made hazards are supported by the platform.
Currently, the platform is available at http://trideccloud.gfz-potsdam.de/ for demonstration purposes. For testing and exercise purposes access is provided to researchers working in this domain.
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