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Visualizing Disasters: New Hazardous Event Posters Available

Image of 2017 Significant Tsunami Poster
Courtesy of NOAA

NCEI’s Global Historical Tsunami, Significant Earthquake, and Significant Volcanic Eruption databases provide valuable information available to many agencies that issue alerts when potentially deadly or damaging natural phenomenon occur.

These databases play a critical role in informing the public about natural hazards. To reach a much wider audience, NCEI researchers began thinking outside the box due to a request to expand tsunami information beyond a database.  

In 2008, at the request of the International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC), NCEI began the development of a historical Global Tsunami Sources poster. Since the initial request, three natural hazards posters have been developed and updated, most recently in April 2022.

Global Tsunami Sources Poster

The first poster, in 2008, displayed a map of all confirmed historical tsunami sources and highlighted the most impactful events. But, this wasn’t the first time NCEI took on the task of mapping historical tsunami sources. In 1984, NCEI produced a historical tsunami source map for the Pacific Basin.

This map developed by NCEI in 1984 shows the location of historical tsunami sources for the Pacific Basin. Courtesy of NOAA.

However, the challenge in 2008 was to map over 1,100 confirmed global tsunami events—more than double the number in the 1984 map. Upon completion, ITIC distributed physical copies of the Global Tsunami Sources poster throughout the United States and internationally.

The 2008 Global Tsunami Sources poster included over 1,100 confirmed global tsunami events. Courtesy of NOAA.

Significant Earthquakes and Significant Volcanic Eruptions Posters

In 2010, ITIC and NCEI again collaborated to develop two global posters displaying Significant Earthquakes and Significant Volcanic Eruptions. This resurrected a previous effort, as NCEI had previously produced significant (or destructive) earthquake posters as early as the late 1970s. In 2012, the tsunami sources poster was translated into Spanish by the Chilean Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service, known by their Spanish acronym, SHOA.

All three posters—tsunami, earthquake, and volcanic eruptions—are updated approximately every two years, providing experts and the public with an up-to-date glance at the historical databases. 

Events that took place after the 2008 posters were released have been added to the new versions, but corrections to historical effects are continuously being updated. 

Visitors to a tsunami warning center or emergency operations center around the world may see the posters because they are used as historical references for experts and as a way to communicate to the media during an event.

NCEI Hazards posters can be seen hanging above scientists desks at the Hong Kong Observatory’s tsunami warning center, 2015. Courtesy of Hong Kong Observatory, China.

The posters are regularly distributed to warning and response personnel by ITIC and available digitally through both NCEI and ITIC. PDF versions of these posters are available for download from NCEI:

ITIC, based in Honolulu, was established in November 1965 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is hosted by NOAA and the National Weather Service.