Understanding the different tsunami messages

With the recent event for Hawaii Island arose, many followers have been asking for the meanings of each message, HIRSC - Weather Team were able to get the official definitions of each message.

Published by: HIRSC - Weather Team

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The HIRSC Team has received multiple messages regarding the meaning of message mean to the public as far as the action needed to be taken and we were very fortunate to receive information and graphics from emergency officials from the State of Hawai'i and meteorologists from the National Weather Service (NWS).

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.

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.

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