Tsunami Early Warning System: Jörn Lauterjung awarded the Federal Cross of Merit

Jörn Lauterjung (centre), Federal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek (right) and Liane Lauterjung at the presentation of the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class (photo: BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel).

Jörn Lauterjung, Director 'Data, Information and IT Services' at the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam was awarded the Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Federal Cross of Merit) by the State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research Christian Luft on Thursday, 19 December 2019. It is awarded by the Federal President for special achievements in the political, economic, cultural, intellectual or honorary fields.

The trained physicist Jörn Lauterjung has worked at the GFZ since its foundation in 1992. After the tsunami in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 with more than 250,000 deaths, the GFZ took the lead on behalf of the Federal Government in the development of a tsunami early warning system, involving twenty national and international partners. Jörn Lauterjung led the project called GITEWS (German Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System). On 11 November 2008, GITEWS was inaugurated by the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the official test operation started. On 29 March 2011, the system was handed over to Indonesia at a ceremony in Jakarta, thus completing the GITEWS project as planned. Since then, the responsible operator of the system is the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) in Jakarta.

Technically, GITEWS is based on the spatially and temporally precise measurement of earthquake signals and data from GPS stations on land and at sea. Since its commissioning, the warning system has successfully registered thousands of earthquakes and more than ten tsunamis in Indonesia. Earthquake messages and tsunami warnings are issued in less than five minutes after an earthquake, followed by updates or an all-clear.

"I am very pleased about the award," said Jörn Lauterjung. "I am also accepting it on behalf of the many people who have contributed to the establishment of the early warning system, in Germany and Indonesia".

State Secretary Luft said: "Jörn Lauterjung's capacity for empathy and his modesty have made it possible to form an international team that has been able to develop a system that saves human lives". Luft also praised Lauterjung's role in setting up the GFZ from his GDR predecessor institute: "Mr. Lauterjung's sensitivity helped to make it easier for employees from the then new part of Germany to settle in at the new GFZ”.

GFZ’ Chairman of the Board and Scientific Executive Director, Reinhard Hüttl, congratulated Jörn Lauterjung: "This award is a great honour and recognition of Mr Lauterjung's achievements. The success of having created a functioning tsunami early warning system and that of GFZ as a whole are closely connected with his name".

Scientific contact:
Dr. Jörn Lauterjung
Director Data, Information and IT Services
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ
Phone: +49 331 288-1020

Media contact:
Dipl.-Phys. Philipp Hummel
Public and Media Relations
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ
14473 Potsdam
Phone: +49 331 288-1049
Twitter: @GFZ_Potsdam

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