ABSTRACT

We evaluate the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center’s (PTWC) performance for the Caribbean relying on the compilation of 298 messages issued for this region between 2003 and July 2017. Matching the earthquake parameters included in these messages with the corresponding solutions published in later more authoritative catalogs allowed us to calculate essential statistics for quality indicators such as response time, epicentral offset, magnitude residual, and their spatial and temporal distributions. Analysis of these statistics reveals that the PTWC has gradually reduced the response times for the Caribbean from a median of 11 min before 2006 to just under 3 min in 2017. The PTWC has also kept the magnitude residuals at 0.2 magnitude unit and the epicentral offsets at or under the historical margin of error despite processing an increasingly larger number of events since 2013. The quality of the preliminary earthquake source parameters issued by the PTWC, combined with the speed of its messages for this region, validates the PTWC data processing system for the Caribbean as capable of handling events in the vicinity of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (PRVI) with the speed and accuracy required to provide them with local tsunami warning products. Notwithstanding, despite fast issuance of tsunami messages from the PTWC, given the potential generation of tsunamis with very short travel times of even less than 5 min, PRVI must continue to educate the population to self evacuate in the event of strong or long ground shaking instead of waiting for official tsunami messages.

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