VolcTools -- enhancing ease of use and uptake of tools to improve prediction and preparedness of volcanic hazards.

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

Abstract

Volcanic eruptions pose a major hazard to life and livelihood. It is well-known that the largest eruptions can have catastrophic impacts and there is an increasing awareness that smaller eruptions that are much more frequent can have a large effect on people, their assets and the economy on a local and regional scale. Events like the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull have shown that countries like the UK that are quite far from volcanoes can still be greatly affected by volcanic activity. The disruption to air traffic in 2010 had very large global economic impact (estimated at US$5bn). In volcanically active regions there are many towns and cities that have grown close to volcanoes and continued urbanization is exposing many more communities to volcanic hazards. Impacts here are more acute, with volcanic flows like lahars (mudflows) and pyroclastic flows presenting severe risk to life, while ash fall can destroy property and ruin livelihoods.

Managing volcanic hazards requires a detailed understanding of volcanic activity and the ability to predict future behaviour. Academic research has demonstrated that mathematical modelling of volcanic processes can greatly assist in the production of robust hazard assessments that can be used by policy-makers, decision-makers and hazard managers to protect people and their livelihoods from volcanic activity. Despite this, relatively few mathematical research models are used when volcanic hazard assessments are made. Scientists in agencies that are tasked with providing advice on volcanic hazards to decision-makers (the targeted end-users of this project) would benefit greatly from access to predictive mathematical models. This knowledge exchange fellowship will provide a suite of user-friendly web-based modelling tools, called VolcTools, allowing users around the world to access state-of-the-art volcanic hazard models from recent cutting-edge research.

Crucially, my project will have a continuous two-way engagement with end-users: I will learn from potential users about their modelling needs and the requirements of tools that would assist their operations; I will provide training to users on the tools that I develop and support their application of the tools; I will gather feedback from users and modify the tools to ensure that VolcTools meets the needs of users. Web-tools provide many advantages to users, such as very few computational requirements so that even very sophisticated and complex mathematical models can be run from mobile devices with the calculations performed remotely on high-performance computers. Users of web-based tools are guaranteed to be using the most up-to-date version, and the model can be easily maintained and upgraded. Modern web-programming allows web-tools to guide users through the set-up of a model and can provide instant, direct support to users. Monitoring of the web-tools is straight-forward and allows detailed user support to be provided.

This fellowship has a strong international user community who will directly contribute to the development of VolcTools. VolcTools will provide volcano hazard managers around the world with new capabilities to use models to enhance their activities with quantitative, evidence-based and robust predictions. Improved preparedness is key to disaster risk reduction. Scientific research, particularly in forecasting future activity and its impacts, is crucial to achieving this and VolcTools will bring the latest research models to volcano hazard managers. The result of better predictions will be improved hazard mitigation strategies and decision-making based on the latest advances in mathematical modelling. This can have a very substantial benefit on the lives of people affected by volcanic activity, through improved hazard preparations, higher confidence in policies and decisions, and less disruption to economic and social activities.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Volcanic disaster risk reduction is greatly aided by preparatory studies including modelling potential hazards, but agencies tasked with hazard prediction often have limited knowledge on model development. In the first year of the VolcTools project, working with project partners, it has become clear that in addition to requiring modelling tools, the usability of tools is also an essential aspect of model take-up. Specific barriers to model use by hazard managers are:
i) IT system and infrastructure requirements -- agencies are often constrained in their IT infrastructure and rarely have high-performance computing or systems that allow programs to be compiled locally;
ii) commercial software requirements -- many models produced by the academic community are packages that require expensive commercial software to run (e.g. MATLAB, arcGIS);
iii) version control -- maintaining up-to-date version of software can be time consuming and costly, particularly if updates to commercial software is required or IT systems support is needed to install updates; some institutions have restrictions on downloading from the internet from shared repositories such as github;
iv) formatting requirements of input data -- volcanic flow models use topographic data and some models have inconvenient data formatting requirements;
v) formatting of output data -- model outputs must be usable within existing processing workflows;
vi) error reporting -- occasionally models will fail and when this happens there must be appropriate reporting of errors so users can diagnose problems, make repairs and recover results;
vii) run time -- models developed by the academic community are becoming increasingly sophisticated, often leading to increasingly long calculation times despite modern computational methods and hardware. Run time is an important consideration for agencies, where workload is high, particularly during volcanic crises;
viii) training and help -- agency staff often have multiple responsibilities and are not dedicated to modelling studies. Specific model training is essential but there must also be support when models are used in practice, which can be many months or years after initial training.

These factors together contribute to the ease-of-use of a model. Models developed by the academic community will be more readily used in practice by hazard managers if they are designed with ease-of-use as a primary consideration. Web-based model interfaces (such as those that are being developed in the VolcTools project) can address many of the barriers identified above.
Exploitation Route By identifying the specific barriers to the use of models developed in academia by practitioners, models can be designed and developed to overcome them.

Models developed in the VolcTools project are being used by practitioners for modelling volcanic hazards.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description VolcTools has continued to developed the LaharFlow model, which is being used by agencies tasked with managing volcanic hazards. During model development within VolcTools, there has been frequent engagement with potential end-users to exchange knowledge. This has resulted in capability building at institutions that are using models (both those developed in VolcTools and other models for volcano hazard management).
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Philippines - Quantitative Lahar Impact and Loss Assessment under changing Land Use and Climate Scenarios
Amount £380,459 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S00274X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 11/2021
 
Title LaharFlow 
Description Developed the LaharFlow web-based interface to our predictive lahar model on topography. Developed functionality to allow the upload of high resolution DEMs for lahar modelling. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Used for simulating lahars and debris flows for the construction of hazard maps at Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Guagua Pichincha volcanoes, Ecuador, by IGEPN. Used for hazard assessment for a potential debris flow caused by a landslide at Lucre, Peru. 
URL http://www.laharflow.bris.ac.uk
 
Description Met office plume height--mass eruption rate 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution During volcanic crises, airspace management of ash hazards relies on forecasting ash dispersion in the atmosphere. These forecasts require an estimate of the mass eruption rate. This boundary condition has a leading effect on the accuracy of forecasts. Currently, the operational approach to estimating the mass eruption rate is to use it's relationship to the eruption column height which can be easily measured during an eruption. The relationship between column height and mass eruption rate has been calibrated using a database of historical eruptions, but the uncertainty in the data is not included. In previous research I have shown that the uncertainty can lead to order-of-magnitude under- or over-prediction of the mass eruption rate from column height observations. In this research, I have developed a Bayesian statistical approach to characterizing the uncertainty in the mass eruption rate estimation from column height observations. This approach allows operation ash dispersion models to quantify (i) the range of likely mass eruption rates and (ii) the probability distribution for the mass eruption rate. I have discussed the statistical methodology and implications for operational ash dispersion modelling with the Met Office (the London VAAC) and will develop software to allow easy use of the methodology.
Collaborator Contribution The Met Office have provided insight into operational ash dispersion modelling and advice on making the research methodology applicable.
Impact Multidisciplinary with mathematicians, statisticians, geologists and atmospheric scientists.
Start Year 2018
 
Description World Bank Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Activity 
Organisation GNS Science
Country New Zealand 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The World Bank commissioned a project "Feasibility Assessment of Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Unrest and Volcanic Eruption" to assess the feasibility of implementing a parametric insurance scheme for volcanic activity in East Asia and the South Pacific. I was involed most heavily in the post-eruption component of the report (Component 3; feasibility of parametric insurance following a volcanic eruption). I contributed a report on modelling volcanic flow hazards, included in the Component 3 report submitted to the World Bank and as a technical appendix, and produced flow model hazard predictions.
Collaborator Contribution All collaborators contributed to the component 3 report. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University, contributed volcanic fall hazard modelling and a technical report. GNS Science contributed a risk assessment using the fall and flow hazard models.
Impact Report to the World Bank on feasibility of parametric insurance for volcanic unrest and eruption. Too early to measure any outcomes. Multidisciplinary project involving: geologists, insurance industry, risk analysts, mathematicians.
Start Year 2018
 
Description World Bank Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Activity 
Organisation Nanyang Technological University
Department Earth Observatory Singapore
PI Contribution The World Bank commissioned a project "Feasibility Assessment of Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Unrest and Volcanic Eruption" to assess the feasibility of implementing a parametric insurance scheme for volcanic activity in East Asia and the South Pacific. I was involed most heavily in the post-eruption component of the report (Component 3; feasibility of parametric insurance following a volcanic eruption). I contributed a report on modelling volcanic flow hazards, included in the Component 3 report submitted to the World Bank and as a technical appendix, and produced flow model hazard predictions.
Collaborator Contribution All collaborators contributed to the component 3 report. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University, contributed volcanic fall hazard modelling and a technical report. GNS Science contributed a risk assessment using the fall and flow hazard models.
Impact Report to the World Bank on feasibility of parametric insurance for volcanic unrest and eruption. Too early to measure any outcomes. Multidisciplinary project involving: geologists, insurance industry, risk analysts, mathematicians.
Start Year 2018
 
Description World Bank Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Activity 
Organisation Willis, Towers, and Watson
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The World Bank commissioned a project "Feasibility Assessment of Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Unrest and Volcanic Eruption" to assess the feasibility of implementing a parametric insurance scheme for volcanic activity in East Asia and the South Pacific. I was involed most heavily in the post-eruption component of the report (Component 3; feasibility of parametric insurance following a volcanic eruption). I contributed a report on modelling volcanic flow hazards, included in the Component 3 report submitted to the World Bank and as a technical appendix, and produced flow model hazard predictions.
Collaborator Contribution All collaborators contributed to the component 3 report. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University, contributed volcanic fall hazard modelling and a technical report. GNS Science contributed a risk assessment using the fall and flow hazard models.
Impact Report to the World Bank on feasibility of parametric insurance for volcanic unrest and eruption. Too early to measure any outcomes. Multidisciplinary project involving: geologists, insurance industry, risk analysts, mathematicians.
Start Year 2018
 
Description World Bank Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Activity 
Organisation World Bank Group
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The World Bank commissioned a project "Feasibility Assessment of Parametric Insurance for Volcanic Unrest and Volcanic Eruption" to assess the feasibility of implementing a parametric insurance scheme for volcanic activity in East Asia and the South Pacific. I was involed most heavily in the post-eruption component of the report (Component 3; feasibility of parametric insurance following a volcanic eruption). I contributed a report on modelling volcanic flow hazards, included in the Component 3 report submitted to the World Bank and as a technical appendix, and produced flow model hazard predictions.
Collaborator Contribution All collaborators contributed to the component 3 report. Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University, contributed volcanic fall hazard modelling and a technical report. GNS Science contributed a risk assessment using the fall and flow hazard models.
Impact Report to the World Bank on feasibility of parametric insurance for volcanic unrest and eruption. Too early to measure any outcomes. Multidisciplinary project involving: geologists, insurance industry, risk analysts, mathematicians.
Start Year 2018
 
Title LaharFlow 
Description LaharFlow is a shallow-water model for lahars, using modern numerical methods for hyperbolic systems. LaharFlow simulates two-phase flow, includes erosion and deposition of solids, and couples the evolving solids concentration to the flow resistance. Digital topographic maps are used to model the topography. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Underlying mathematical model of the LaharFlow web-tool. 
URL http://www.laharflow.bristol.ac.uk
 
Title LaharFlow webtool 
Description A web interface to the LaharFlow model. Developed functionality to allow the upload of high resolution DEMs for lahar modelling. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used for simulating lahars and debris flows for the construction of hazard maps at Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Guagua Pichincha volcanoes, Ecuador, by IGEPN. Used for hazard assessment for a potential debris flow caused by a landslide at Lucre, Peru. 
URL http://www.laharflow.bristol.ac.uk
 
Description Convective and Volcanic Clouds Training School Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk and practical session at the 4th International Training School on Convective and Volcanic Clouds, Nicolosi, Sicily, Italy. Talk presented the fluid mechanics and mathematics of turbulent plumes and the application to model volcanic eruption columns. Practical session included modelling volcanic eruption columns using the PlumeRise model (www.plumerise.bris.ac.uk) and small group guided discussions on linking plume modelling to ash dispersion forecasts (run in collaboration with Nina Kristiansen, Met Office). The session sparked lots of discussion and questions, and participants reported increased understanding and interest in the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Debris Flow Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop at British Geological Survey Edinburgh on Debris flows to discuss the current state of research and application of debris flow models. Workshop included participants from national geological surveys ( BGS (UK), INGV (Italy) ) and academics from Mexico, Italy, Iceland.

I presented a talk on debris flow models for practical hazard assessments, prompting a detailed discussion of linking physical science to end-user-needs. I also presented the LaharFlow model, developed in VolcTools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Edinburgh Fuego workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented a talk on modelling lahar hazards at a workshop on the Fuego, Guatemala, volcanic eruption. Attended by 10 academics from a multiple disciplines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description LaharFlow initial training to PhiVolcs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Training session (via teleconference) provided for the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs; Philippines) on the use of LaharFlow as a lahar hazard model. An audience of 10 professional volcanologists and volcano hazard managers attended for a presentation on the physics of lahar dynamics and hands-on training with the LaharFlow web-tool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description LaharFlow training to SGC 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Training session (via teleconference) provided for the Seismic Research Centre, University of the West Indies on the use of LaharFlow as a lahar hazard model. An audience of 9 professional volcanologists and hazard managers attended for a presentation on the physics of lahar dynamics and hands-on training with the LaharFlow web-tool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description LaharFlow workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 12 attendees to a two-day workshop on an introduction to the LaharFlow model, including discussion sessions and interactive engagement. Attendees reported that they will use the LaharFlow model in the future for their research and operations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting at BGS on statistical methods for ash dispersion modelling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting at BGS Edinburgh with three members of the volcanic hazards team to discuss the development of statistical methods applied to volcanic ash transport modelling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Modelling lahars. huaycos and other shallow surface flows 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Two 2-day workshops held on the physics and mathematical modelling of sediment-laden flows (lahars and huaycos) at INGEMMET (Geological, Mining, and Metallurgical Institute, Peru). Approximately 10 participants in Lima and 8 participants in Arequipa. Demonstrated and provided training on the use of LaharFlow as a lahar hazard model. Discussed the use of the model for urban flash flooding (huaycos).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation for Satellite Applications Catapult 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to delegation from Satellite Applications Catapult on "Topographic data for hazard modelling"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Short course on volcanic hazards 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented a two-day short course, with Steve Sparks, on volcanic hazards at the Turkish Geological Survey (MTA), to give an overview of the current state of volcanic hazard and risk. This activity is linked to the TurkVolc project, aimed at increasing the capability in volcanic hazard and risk in Turkey. I presented on the modelling aspects of volcanic hazards, specifically:
(i) a introduction to mathematical, physical and statistical modelling;
(ii) modelling ash transport and dispersion;
(iii) modelling pyroclastic density currents;
(iv) modelling lahars and debris flows.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018