Volcanic flank collapse: diversity of behaviour, hazard generation and controls on volcano evolution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of Ocean and Earth Science


The collapse of volcanoes, resulting from instability, can lead to extremely large landslides. These form avalanches of rock that may travel outwards for tens of kilometres. The impacts of such events can be devastating, destroying all in their path. Such debris avalanches have occurred many times in the past. Field evidence indicates the presence of their deposits around volcanoes worldwide. In some cases, these large landslides may be accompanied by eruption, but at other times, they may occur without a clear link to volcanic activity. Thus, there are different types of edifice collapse that may generate debris avalanches. In addition to generating debris avalanches, the collapse of a portion of a volcano can lead to changes in the subsequent activity of the volcano itself. This change in eruptive behaviour results means that the types of hazard posed by a particular volcanic system may switch through time, as part of a cycle of volcano construction and destruction. Volcanic hazards, related both to landslides and eruption, are at present unpredictable. Only by understanding in more detail the causes of failure, and how failure relates to the hazardous potential of these large landslides, can our forecasting capacity be improved. This project aims to improve our overall understanding of how volcanic debris avalanches are generated, and how different causes or types of collapse result in a range of hazards posed by avalanches. These hazards can be assessed in terms of the timing, style and size of events. The project also aims to place the collapse of volcanoes within the process of volcano formation and destruction. This can be done through understanding how collapse affects magma stored beneath the volcano, and thereby influences later volcanic activity and development. These relationships are fundamental to understanding volcanism. The approach this project will take is to incorporate existing data, from numerous detailed studies of individual volcanoes, with new data from well-known debris avalanche deposits and volcano collapses. I will assess these data for general relationships and patterns relating to the causes of collapse and avalanche processes. The selected field sites are in Mexico and Chile, where several examples of volcanic collapses are well exposed. By taking field-based and chemical measurements, debris avalanches can be placed in a time-context with activity at the collapsed volcano. Additionally, chemical data can be used to understand how magma beneath the volcano has changed through time, in terms of its storage conditions, mixing and ascent. Such data therefore provide information relating to the evolution of volcanoes through time, and how this evolution is impacted by collapse. The field and laboratory results will be strengthened by the application of calculations and models that show how collapse alters the stress and pressure conditions beneath volcanoes. Hence, changes in volcano evolution can be interpreted in light of quantitative data, and relationships between sizes and types of collapse and changes in volcanic behaviour can be better understood. This approach is important for understanding the potential types and impacts of volcanic hazards at individual volcanoes, and how these may differ through time. Further developments of this work will be to apply these finding to understand the behaviour of debris avalanches and their associated hazards in different environments. Such hazards may include changes in debris avalanche flow behaviour, or tsunami generation when debris avalanches interact with water.


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Description See later entry for equivalent award - NE/I02044X/2
Exploitation Route See later entry for equivalent award - NE/I02044X/2
Sectors Environment

Description Please see later entry for the equivalent award (NE/I02044X/2) (award transferred to a different institution - full entry is provided in this transferred version of the award)
Description Emplacement dynamics of debris avalanches and submarine landslides at Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat
Amount £70,987 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/K000403/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2012 
End 01/2014
Description Collapse processes at Jocotitlan and Colima, Mexico 
Organisation National Autonomous University of Mexico
Country Mexico 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ongoing research into collapse at Mexican volcanoes
Start Year 2012
Description Impacts of volcano collapse at Antuco volcano 
Organisation National Geology and Mining Service
Country Chile 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Ongoing research, in collaboration with Hugo Moreno (Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria, Temuco, Chile)
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of data and transfer of findings, via their associated work, to governmental organisation (SERNAGEOMIN, Chile)
Impact NA
Start Year 2013
Description Landslide processes offshore Montserrat 
Organisation University of Bremen
Department MARUM
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Participation in Marine research expedition M154/2 (RV Meteor) offshore Montserrat in 2018. This built on results arising from the NERC-funded project, and will continue to do so via a German-funded PhD project.
Collaborator Contribution Participation in marine research expedition as sedimentologist, including planning of sites, description of cores and samples, and involvement with post-expedition research proposal (leading to funded PhD project).
Impact TBC
Start Year 2018
Description Numerical modelling of volcanic collapse processes and impact on subsurface magma storage systems 
Organisation University of Savoy
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hosted for several weeks at Universite de Savoie to use facilities and develop updated numerical models of magma storage systems
Collaborator Contribution Models developed by V. Pinel, Universite de Savoie. Training provided.
Impact NA
Start Year 2013
Description Ritter Island volcanic collapse processes 
Organisation Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Department Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of new proposal and associated reserach to complement planned research into collapse deposits around Ritter Island
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of data and results from forthcoming research cruise into deposits offshore Ritter Island (seismic data), including participation in research.
Impact NA
Start Year 2014
Description Volcanic eruption processes at Krakatau volcano, Indonesia 
Organisation Bandung Institute of Technology
Country Indonesia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Through this project we have strengthened research collaborations with the Bandung Institute of Technology (Mirzam Abdurrachman), which has built on previous partnerships developed by a co-investigator on the project (M Cassidy). The team from Bandung offered substantial field support in Indonesia during this project, and research support (leading the drone based element of the research project), and we are continuing to work together on outputs from this project. The collaboration has also led to an upcoming research visit and is likely to support future research in the region between the two teams. We have shared data and samples resulting from the field survey, presented a series of talks in Bandung, and will continue to analyse and publish results together.
Collaborator Contribution As noted above, the partners contributed significantly to field support and led the drone-based part of the field survey; they have also contributed subsequent data and samples to the project, and the Indonesian and UK teams are continuing to work together on the project.
Impact The collaboration is not multi-disciplinary. Co-authored research publications are in preparation and will be reported here in due course.
Start Year 2019
Description Media coverage of project related research at AGU conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Outputs from this research project, alongside other NERC funded reserach projects investigating Krakatau (Tappin et al., eruption generated tsunamis; and Hunt et al., marine survey of Anak Krakatau) was covered widely following presentations at the AGU conference. This included articles on several international websites and a discussion on a BBC radio programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Multiple public talks and exhibits related to the research project (West Midlands region) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Several talks and outreach events have been given by the investigators involved in this project. Examples include an exhibit at a recent arts and science evening event (Lapworth Lates) held in the Lapworth Museum, Birmingham, where an exhibit showed samples, video and images relating to the research, as a starting point to stimulate discussions with a broad public audience. Other examples include a presentation of the reserach at the upcoming Pint of Science festival (Birmingham), and a talk to school and local interest groups at the Shropshire Geological Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022
Description Series of public reserach talks at Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following the field element of this project in Indonesia, and building on our partnership with Indonesian collaborators, four members of the reserach team presented a series of talks at Bandung Intsitute of Technology, Indonesia, about the aims of the project and initial results. The talks were given in the university but also live-streamed to a public audience. Following the talks, there was an open discussion between the speakers and the audience, including several questions from the public audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.itb.ac.id/news/read/57208/home/peneliti-itb-bersama-para-geologist-inggris-lakukan-penel...