The CAT-INGV is a very special case among providers of early warning systems, as it combines the production of services (monitoring and early warning activities) with an intense research activity carried out by the researchers and technologists of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, who often also ensure the monitoring activities and their coordination.
The Directive of the President of the Council establishing the National Alert System for Earthquake generated tsunamis, when defining the competences of the three players involved (Civil Protection Department, Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology), assigns to the CAT-INGV the task of guaranteeing the surveillance service for tsunami alerts and of preparing the tsunami hazard map for the Italian coasts.
In order to achieve these objectives, it is very important to develop scientific knowledge, which takes place through basic and applied research. Research in the field of tsunamis includes several areas: hazard assessment, analysis of seismic sources (faults) and geological processes which can generate or trigger a tsunami; development of mathematical models to study the propagation and impact of tsunami waves, methods for estimating alert levels, analysis of historical documents and uncertainty assessment. The study of uncertainty is totally fundamental for events which have a strong destructive potential but that occur much less frequently than landslides, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
The Tsunami Hazard Map (MPTS), currently being developed for the Italian region, will have to define which areas are most likely to be flooded by a tsunami generated by an earthquake at sea in a given period of time. This type of research is aimed at developing a model of probabilistic hazard for tsunamis generated by earthquakes (S-PTHA, Seismic - Probabilistic Tsunami Hazard Assessment) and aims to inform decisions on measures to be taken to reduce the risk, for example, by identifying criteria to be used for the regulatory plans of coastal municipalities and to build ports, railways, power plants and other critical infrastructures.
An important step in the elaboration of this hazard map has been the participation of researchers in the TSUMAPS-NEAM (LINK TO THE SHEET) project, co-funded by the DG-ECHO (Directorate General for Civil Protection and European Humanitarian Aid Operations of the European Commission) which deals with, among other things, the coordination of civil protection activities at European level.
The CAT-INGV researchers come from different areas of earth sciences: geologists, seismologists, physicists, engineers and computer scientists, experts in the field of hazard, numerical modelling, in the study of seismic processes, geological evidence and historical documentation of past tsunamis. These activities have recently been flanked by researches on risk perception and communication, which will have to contribute to making risk mitigation measures more understandable and therefore more effective, from communication campaigns to the elaboration of emergency plans, together with legal experts, who contribute to defining criteria and operational rules in the light of the current regulatory framework.
The INGV researchers participating in the CAT-INGV activities contribute to the debate on the subjects they are experts on by means of publishing articles in scientific journals or volume contributions, by participating in national and international conferences and by a lengthy series of collaborations with Italian and international Scientific Societies and Universities, which result in many Higher Education initiatives.
Moreover, the CAT-INGV researchers are involved in numerous activities of communication, training, scientific dissemination and technology transfer within the so-called third mission, which defines the set of activities that research institutions and universities put into place as a fundamental part of their mandate, in response to the knowledge requirements and expectations of citizens.