ABSTRACT

Over 75 tsunamis have been documented in the Caribbean and adjacent regions during the past 500 years. Since 1500, at least 4484 people are reported to have perished in these killer waves. Hundreds of thousands are currently threatened along the Caribbean coastlines. Were a great tsunamigenic earthquake to occur in the Caribbean region today, the effects would potentially be catastrophic due to an increasingly vulnerable region that has seen significant population increases in the past 40–50 years and currently hosts an estimated 500,000 daily beach visitors from North America and Europe, a majority of whom are not likely aware of tsunami and earthquake hazards. Following the magnitude 9.1 Sumatra–Andaman Islands earthquake of 26 December 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Early Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE‐EWS) was established and developed minimum performance standards for the detection and analysis of earthquakes. In this study, we model earthquake‐magnitude detection threshold and P‐wave detection time and demonstrate that the requirements established by the UNESCO ICG CARIBE‐EWS are met with 100% of the network operating. We demonstrate that earthquake‐monitoring performance in the Caribbean Sea region has improved significantly in the past decade as the number of real‐time seismic stations available to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tsunami warning centers have increased. We also identify weaknesses in the current international network and provide guidance for selecting the optimal distribution of seismic stations contributed from existing real‐time broadband national networks in the region.

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