School of GeoSciences

News in summary

Wed, 19/09/2018

Researchers from the University’s School of GeoSciences have been awarded a NERC Urgency Research Grant to undertake a project aimed at reducing volcanic risk around Fuego volcano in Guatemala, which recently erupted.

The project builds on results from recent collaborations between scientists from the UK and Guatemala which worked together to create volcanic crisis maps in the aftermath of Fuego’s volcano 3rd June eruption, one of the deadliest in the last decades. 

The project led by Drs Calder and Gioli of the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with University of Bristol and the British Geological Survey will help understand volcanic hazard evolution, changes in the exposed population and the different ways that vulnerability is manifest; as well as assessing hazard communication and organisational interactions. The project partners include Guatemalan government institutions - the volcano observatory and civil protection, the UK based charity - MapAction, as well as scientists from Mexico, Italy and the USA.

The volcanic hazard maps that the team have already been involved in developing have helped inform authorities and civil population about the extent and effects of the pyroclastic flows and also the secondary hazards which still constitute a major risk to numerous communities around the flank of Fuego volcano. The crisis maps were published as 3D interactive webmaps, the first of their kind among volcanic hazard maps. These provided valuable information to decision makers and NGOs working in-country at the time. 

Alistair Langmuir, PhD student and one of the key participants of the NERC Urgency award, said:

"Developing up-to-date interactive hazard maps which are accessible to local authorities and NGOs provides essential information for rapid response and decision making during crises.  They are also an effective means of communication to the wider public."

Preventing such disasters in the future is currently hindered by still poor understanding of where and when such flows might be generated as well as the limited understanding of risk architecture and root-causes of vulnerability. The proposed work is grounded in Geosciences but also pulls in interdisciplinary understanding of vulnerability as related to volcanic processes, targeting an emerging field in volcanology: risk at community level. 

Dr Eliza Calder from the School of Geosciences said:

"We have the rare opportunity to characterise dynamic risk, in particular focusing on sources of vulnerability (including physical, systemic, functional, and social,) to investigate risk drivers in this context and capture how risk evolves as the eruptive activity progresses through the rainy season and into the next dry season”. 

Related links

3D INSIVUMEH larhar crisis maps, in collaboration with the School of GeoSciences

Interdisciplinary project will help to bridge knowledge gaps and reduce risk around Guatemalan Fuego volcano.  Credit: Alistair LangmuirInterdisciplinary project will help to bridge knowledge gaps and reduce risk around Guatemalan Fuego volcano. Credit: Alistair Langmuir