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News article3 November 2020

JRC's sea level stations detected the tsunami triggered by massive earthquake in Turkey

The sea state in Kos, 30 min after the arrival of the wave
The sea state in Kos, 30 min after the arrival of the wave

The devastating earthquake on 30 October 2020 of magnitude 7.0 in the sea near Izmir (Turkey) and Samos (Greece) triggered a tsunami with inundation heights up to 3m. JRC's sea level stations (Inexpensive Device for Sea Level Measurement, or IDSL) picked up the tsunami immediately, allowing the National Tsunami Warning Centres of Greece and Turkey to anticipate impacts.

Both the Greek National Observatory of Athens (NOA) and the Turkish Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI) confirmed they used the IDSL data in their procedures. Both centres act as regional Tsunami Service Providers of the Tsunami Warning System of the NEAM region (North Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas region). The three IDSL instruments, one in Plomari and two in Kos, measured the variations of the sea level which allowed to detect the ongoing tsunami event about 1h after the earthquake occurred. The measurements were immediately available to the mentioned national and regional monitoring centres from the JRC database located in Ispra (Italy). Two experimental features of the IDSL sea level stations were tested. The onboard tsunami detection software - distinguishing normal waves from tsunamis - correctly triggered an alarm. The webcam provided visual evidence of the tsunami.

With low frequency events like tsunamis, every occurrence is an opportunity to learn lessons. Therefore, JRC started working with the official Tsunami Service Providers of the NEAM Tsunami Warning System to analyse the use and usefulness of IDSL measurements. The National Observatory of Athens (NOA) said:

"Given the proximity of the faults to the coastline in the Mediterranean, and consequently the short wave arrival times following tsunamigenic earthquakes, the installation of tide gauges, such as the IDSLs provided by JRC, is vital for the operations of tsunami warning centers in the region".

The signals of the Tsunami

Background information

The IDSL (Inexpensive Device for Sea Level Monitoring) network, set up by the European Commission to contribute to the international efforts for tsunami early warning, consists of 35 devices in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

The JRC also collaborates with Indonesia since JRC provided the country with 8 IDSL devices to implement a new Tsunami Warning System in the aftermath of the Anuk Krakatau volcano explosion on 22 Dec 2018, with plans to implement an additional 530 units over the coming years.

Network in Euro-Med region:

Network in Indonesia:


Publication date
3 November 2020