RCUK-TUBITAK: Understanding volcanic risk in Turkey for improved emergency response and disaster risk reduction

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Earth Sciences


Geological and historical records of the ten active volcanoes in Turkey indicate potential in several of them for major explosive eruptions. Over 4 million people live within 30 km of an active volcano and over 15 million live within 100 km. Several major cities have high exposure to volcanic risk including Kayseri and Diyarbaki. In an assessment of the global distribution of volcanic risk Turkey ranked at 14th in overall volcanic threat out of 95 volcanically active countries, reflecting high population exposure. The last major volcanic disaster in Turkey occurred in 1840 from Mount Ararat, when an estimated 1900 people lost their lives. However, there is a 70% chance of a major eruption in this century based on global statistics and preliminary analysis of Turkish eruption records. Turkey is vulnerable to volcanic hazards due to the large exposed population, lack of experience of public officials and communities with volcanic emergencies, very limited volcano monitoring, and lack of knowledge on volcanic hazards and risk. This project seeks to increase resilience in Turkey by contributing to development of appropriate volcanic emergency management plans and disaster risk reduction. The project will enable partners in Turkey to learn from those with direct experience of volcanic emergencies in order to build preparedness. This project therefore brings together the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA), the authority in Turkey charged with investigating and handling geophysical hazards, the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol and the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. This project will also draw from expertise across the global volcanological community through the Global Volcano Model network, co-chaired by University of Bristol. Improved collaborations fostered through this project will enable knowledge transfer via exchange visits designed to share experiences gained in volcanically active situations. The aim is to facilitate learning and tool development to increase the ability within Turkey to respond to future volcanic unrest and eruption. The eruptive histories of volcanoes in Turkey are very poorly understood. A key issue and first step to be addressed is to improve understanding of past activity, through literature studies, historical records, field studies and sampling, and radiometric dating. Scenarios for future eruptions of high-risk volcanoes will developed to inform planning for emergencies. Access in Eastern Turkey is limited due to the security situation. This, however, generates a need to create an innovative solution to developing studies at remote or inaccessible volcanoes, which will involve remote sensing using various tools such as satellite and aerial imagery and InSAR and identifying analogue systems. These tools developed in Turkey can be applied to other countries with volcanoes made inaccessible by security issues or limited resources. We will identify high-risk volcanoes and communities, through development of new methods for identifying vulnerable populations and population exposure, with identification of critical infrastructure. This will enable the focussing of the project at high-risk sites. We will increase monitoring capacity in Turkey through purchase and installation of crucial monitoring equipment at a high-risk volcano to significantly enhance the ability to give early warning. Training in monitoring techniques, interpretation of the monitoring signals and InSAR data will be provided. The project will also build resilience through the education of the local communities, scientists, authorities and emergency managers. Engagement with these groups will be facilitated by MTA and includes making educational communication tools about volcanic hazards and risk. A simulation exercise will be run to test emergency plans with relevant authorities, and lessons learned will be delivered to the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

Planned Impact

Activities in the proposed project directly address the RCUK-TUBITAK priorities of understanding and managing natural and humanitarian disasters and emergencies, and will support disaster risk reduction, which in turn supports another RCUK-TUBITAK priority of poverty alleviation. The project combines new scientific investigations of volcano chronology and petrology with novel elements of hazard and risk assessment at volcanoes with limited prior information. There will be direct impact on geological hazard monitoring, emergency management planning and response, community awareness of natural hazards and risk mitigation strategies. The scientific outputs from the research conducted in the project will result in a significant increase in the amount of information available to MTA. Improved knowledge of Turkey's volcanoes and their past activity will be achieved through field missions, sample dating and analysis, database analysis and literature reviews. From this updated information, the first hazard assessments for Turkey's active volcanoes will be carried out, as well as the development of eruption scenarios and identification of potential consequences. In addition to information about past activity and likely future hazards, the installation of Turkey's first volcano monitoring stations will provide MTA with the capacity to evaluate future activity and provide early warning. The project will thus have immediate impact on how MTA assess volcanic activity, hazards and potential consequences, and capacity and strategies for dealing with, and planning for, volcano emergencies.

The primary audiences for this project are the Turkish authorities responsible for disaster and emergency management (AFAD) and investigating and handling volcanic hazards (MTA). However, the outcomes and methods developed will be applicable in other countries where understanding and evaluation of volcanic activity, hazards and consequences needs improving. In order to achieve policy impact in Turkey the project's core pathways to impact include knowledge exchange visits, training and project workshops and a final report to AFAD outlining what is required to plan for volcanic emergencies. Joint publication of findings will be prioritised within open access journals that means they have impact beyond academia. Increased collaboration within the greater Global Volcano Model (GVM) network will give Turkish authorities access to expertise and data from volcano observatories globally.

The project focuses on understanding and managing volcanic disasters and emergencies through increased knowledge, data, collaboration networks and capacity for local scientists. Focussed impact activities include:
a) Collaborative field mission in Turkey.
b) Project workshops, to be held in Turkey.
c) Knowledge exchange workshops to be carried out between Bristol, MTA and MVO.
d) A final report led by MTA to inform future risk reduction strategy.
d) Dissemination of knowledge regarding volcanic hazards and potential consequences.

Turkey is distinct from many other volcanic countries because there is no experience of a volcanic emergency and because there is limited understanding or appreciation of the potential for volcanic activity. In order to ensure that the scientific outcomes from the project contribute towards building resilience in communities, scientists, authorities and emergency managers, the project will develop an appropriate and effective education and communication strategy. Tools such as posters, websites and films have been very effective in other volcanic settings and have the potential to drastically impact upon understanding and appreciation of the volcanic hazards in Turkey. A project report led by MTA will provide a synoptic assessment of volcanic risk in Turkey and provide recommendations to AFAD and the authorities for research priorities and actions required for planning for volcanic emergencies.


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Description We have identified new volcanic hazards in Turkey and assessed high risk for some volcanoes. We have initiated a GPS network on two of the highest risk volcanoes. We have collected new samples for age dating to elucidate history of Turkish volcanoes.
Exploitation Route The eventual aim of the project to to present a volcanic risk assessment of Turkey.
Sectors Environment

Description The project has succeeded in engaging AFAD (Turkish National disaster agency) in volcanic risk.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Incorporation of volcanic hazard and risk into the programme of AFAD (Civil Defence Agency if Turkey)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The PIs of this project met the Deputy Director of AFAD (the Turkish national agency that deals with natural hazards disasters) and senior colleagues in February 2019.AFAD have not previously considered volcanic risk on their agenda. having heard the results of this project and been convinced that there is volcanic risk in turkey they are committed to include information on hazards and risk on their national platform of information, which includes 81 districts. This is a major breakthrough for our Turkish colleagues