Journal of Applied Volcanology
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Open Access journal
ISSN (Online) 2191-5040
Published by SpringerOpen [188 journals]
- Phreatic eruptions at crater lakes: occurrence statistics and
probabilistic hazard forecast
Abstract: Abstract Phreatic eruptions, although posing a serious threat to people in crater proximity, are often underestimated and have been comparatively understudied. The detailed eruption catalogue for Ruapehu Volcano (New Zealand) provides an exceptional opportunity to study the statistics of recurring phreatic explosions at a crater lake volcano. We performed a statistical analysis on this phreatic eruption database, which suggests that phreatic events at Ruapehu do not follow a Poisson process. Instead they tend to cluster, which is possibly linked to an increased heat flow during periods of a more shallow-seated magma column. Larger explosions are more likely to follow shortly after smaller events, as opposed to longer periods of quiescence. The absolute probability for a phreatic explosion to occur at Ruapehu within the next month is about 10%, when averaging over the last 70 years of recording. However, the frequency of phreatic explosions is significantly higher than the background level in years prior to magmatic episodes. Combining clast ejection simulations with a Bayesian event tree tool (PyBetVH) we perform a probabilistic assessment of the hazard due to ballistic ejecta in the summit area of Ruapehu, which is frequently visited by hikers. Resulting hazard maps show that the absolute probability for the summit to be affected by ballistics within the next month is up to 6%. The hazard is especially high on the northern lakeshore, where there is a mountain refuge. Our results contribute to the local hazard assessment as well as the general perception of hazards due to steam-driven explosions.
- Household preparedness motivation in lahar hazard zones: assessing the
adoption of preparedness behaviors among laypeople and response
professionals in communities downstream from Mount Baker and Glacier Peak
Abstract: Abstract As the number of people living at risk from volcanic hazards in the U.S. Pacific Northwest grows, more detailed studies of household preparedness in at-risk communities are needed to develop effective mitigation, response, and recovery plans. This study examines two aspects of preparedness behavior motivation in the Skagit Valley (WA), which is at risk from Mount Baker and Glacier Peak lahars. First, we examine the influence of perceived response-efficacy, protective response costs, self-efficacy, and ascription of responsibility on preparedness. Results indicate few respondents believe high perceived protective response costs, low perceived response-efficacy, or low perceived protection responsibility prevent them from adopting frequently recommended preparedness behaviors. Correlations with preparedness suggest perceived self-efficacy and ascription of responsibility play a more dominant role in determining preparedness behaviors, albeit a less readily recognized role. Second, we investigate how participation in hazard management at a professional level (e.g., working as a first responder or leader within the local city government, hospitals, school districts, Red Cross, or utilities, transportation, or water companies) influences knowledge, risk perception, and household preparedness. Results show that professional participation minimally influences household preparedness, but successfully improves perceived self-efficacy, confidence in officials, and information seeking behavior. Given these results, we argue (1) for inclusion of ascription of responsibility variables in studies of preparedness behavior motivation and (2) that specific types of participation in response-related activities (e.g., public, professional, specific training programs) may affect household preparedness differently, whereas self-efficacy and confidence in officials may improve regardless of participation type because of increased interaction with emergency officials.
- Estimating building vulnerability to volcanic ash fall for insurance and
Abstract: Abstract Volcanic ash falls are one of the most widespread and frequent volcanic hazards, and are produced by all explosive volcanic eruptions. Ash falls are arguably the most disruptive volcanic hazard because of their ability to affect large areas and to impact a wide range of assets, even at relatively small thicknesses. From an insurance perspective, the most valuable insured assets are buildings. Ash fall vulnerability curves or functions, which relate the magnitude of ash fall to likely damage, are the most developed for buildings, although there have been important recent advances for agriculture and infrastructure. In this paper, we focus on existing vulnerability functions developed for volcanic ash fall impact on buildings, and apply them to a hypothetical building portfolio impacted by a modern-day Tambora 1815 eruption scenario. We compare and contrast the different developed functions and discuss some of the issues surrounding estimation of potential building damage following a volcanic eruption. We found substantial variability in the different vulnerability estimates, which contribute to large uncertainties when estimating potential building damage and loss. Given the lack of detailed and published studies of building damage resulting from ash fall this is not surprising, although it also appears to be the case for other natural hazards for which there are far more empirical damage data. Notwithstanding the potential limitations of some empirical data in constraining vulnerability functions, efforts are required to improve our estimates of building damage under ash fall loading through the collection of damage data, experimental testing and perhaps theoretical failure analysis. For insurance purposes, the current building typologies provided for use with vulnerability functions are too detailed to map to the relatively limited information on building types that is typically available to insurers. Thus, efforts to provide vulnerability functions that can be used where only limited information is available regarding building types would also be valuable, both for insurers and for at-risk areas that have not been subject to detailed building vulnerability surveys.
- A model to assess tephra clean-up requirements in urban environments
Abstract: Abstract Tephra falls can cause a range of impacts to communities by disrupting, contaminating and damaging buildings and infrastructure systems, as well as posing a potential health hazard. Coordinated clean-up operations minimise the impacts of tephra on social and economic activities. However, global experience suggests clean-up operations are one of the most challenging aspects of responding to and recovering from tephra falls in urban environments. Here, we present a method for modelling coordinated municipal-led (town/district level authorities) tephra clean-up operations to support pre-event response and recovery planning. The model estimates the volume of tephra to be removed, clean-up duration, and direct costs. The underpinning component of the model is a scalable clean-up response framework, which identifies and progressively includes more urban surfaces (e.g., roofs, and roads) requiring clean-up with increasing tephra thickness. To demonstrate model applicability, we present four clean-up scenarios for the city of Auckland, New Zealand: 1 mm and 10 mm distal tephra fall across the city, along with two local ‘wet’ eruption scenarios (low and high volume tephra deposition) from within the Auckland Volcanic Field. Depending on the modelled scenario, outputs suggest that coordinated clean-up operations in Auckland could require the removal of tens of thousands to millions of cubic metres of tephra. The cost of these operations are estimated to be NZ$0.6–1.1 million (US$0.4–0.7 million) for the 1 mm distal tephra scenario and NZ$13.4–25.6 million (US$9–17 million) for the 10 mm distal tephra scenario. Estimated clean-up costs of local eruptions range from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. All eruption scenarios indicate clean-up operations lasting weeks to months, but clean-up in some areas impacted by local eruptions could last for years. The model outputs are consistent with documented historic tephra clean-up operations. Although we use Auckland as a proof-of-concept example, the method may be adapted for any city exposed to a tephra hazard.
- Global recording rates for large eruptions
Abstract: Abstract A non-parametric statistical approach is used to assess the global recording rate for large (M4+) stratovolcano eruptions in a modern database, LaMEVE (v3.1). This approach imposes minimal structure on the shape of the recording rate through time. We find that recording rates have declined rapidly, going backwards in time. Prior to the year 1600 they are below 50 %, and prior to 1100 they are below 20 %. Even in the recent past, e.g. the 1800s, they are likely to be less than 100 %. The assessment for very large (M5+) eruptions is more uncertain, due to the scarcity of events.
- TephraProb: a Matlab package for probabilistic hazard assessments of
Abstract: Abstract TephraProb is a toolbox of Matlab functions designed to produce scenario–based probabilistic hazard assessments for ground tephra accumulation based on the Tephra2 model. The toolbox includes a series of graphical user interfaces that collect, analyze and pre–process input data, create distributions of eruption source parameters based on a wide range of probabilistic eruption scenarios, run Tephra2 using the generated input scenarios and provide results as exceedence probability maps, probabilistic isomass maps and hazard curves. We illustrate the functionality of TephraProb using the 2011 eruption of Cordón Caulle volcano (Chile) and selected eruptions of La Fossa volcano (Vulcano Island, Italy). The range of eruption styles captured by these two events highlights the potential of TephraProb as an operative tool when rapid hazard assessments are required during volcanic crises.
- Application of tephra volume models to ejecta volumes from subsurface
Abstract: Abstract Deposit volume is a critical factor for reconstructing an explosive eruption. Volume estimate models typically used for large Plinian deposits have been adapted and improved repeatedly over the last few decades. Less work has been done to refine a method for estimating the volume from smaller deposits produced by discrete phreatic and phreatomagmatic explosions. The characterization of the volume and distribution of deposits is required to quantify the physical hazards presented by different explosion types and develop appropriate models of future eruptions. Six classic tephra volume models were assessed using a dataset from subsurface explosion experiments. The models typically did a poor job modelling the volume of proximal deposits as a component of total deposit volume of discrete explosion deposits. Models reproduced medial and distal deposit volumes with greater success, particularly the Exponential model and a more recent Linear Regression model. It is therefore recommended, when possible, to use digital elevation models produced from GPS or laser-based methods to characterize proximal deposits separately and to use tephra volume estimates for medial and distal deposits. Additionally, this dataset enabled the comparison of ejecta volumes with crater diameters and highlighted that this relationship only holds for simple crater scenarios without any lateral vent migration, collapse or erosion of the crater under study. The assessment and improvement of these methods are required to ensure accurate deposit volumes as they serve as one of the most important inputs to hazard assessments and numerical models.
- Mapping and measuring lava volumes from 2002 to 2009 at El Reventador
Volcano, Ecuador, from field measurements and satellite remote sensing
Abstract: Abstract Estimates of lava volume, and thus effusion rate, are critical for assessing volcanic hazard and are a priority for volcano observatories with responsibility for monitoring. The choice of specific methods used to approximate lava volume depends on both volcanological and practical considerations; in particular, whether field measurements are possible and how often they can be repeated. Volcán El Reventador (Ecuador) is inaccessible, and field measurements can only be made infrequently at a few locations in its caldera. We present both planimetric field and topographic satellite radar-based measurements of lava flow thicknesses and volumes for activity at El Reventador between 2002 and 2009. Lava volumes estimates range from 75 ± 24 × 106 m3 (based on field measurements of flow thickness) to 90 ± 37 × 106 m3 (from satellite radar retrieval of flow thickness), corresponding to time-averaged effusion rates of 9 ± 4 m3/s and 7 ± 2 m3/s, respectively. Detailed flow mapping from aerial imagery demonstrate that lava effusion rate was at its peak at the start of each eruption phase and decreased over time. Measurements of lava thickness made from a small set of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) interferograms allowed the retrieval of the shape of the compound lava flow field and show that in 2009 it was subsiding by up to 6 cm/year. Satellite radar measurements thus have the potential to be a valuable supplement to ground-based monitoring at El Reventador and other inaccessible volcanoes.
- Impacts to agriculture and critical infrastructure in Argentina after
ashfall from the 2011 eruption of the Cordón Caulle volcanic complex: an
assessment of published damage and function thresholds
Abstract: Abstract The 2011 Cordón Caulle (Chile) was a large silicic eruption that dispersed ashfall over 75,000 km2 of land in Central Argentina, affecting large parts of the Neuquén, Río Negro, and Chubut provinces, including the urban areas of Villa la Angostura, Bariloche and Jacobacci. These regions all received damage and disruption to critical infrastructure and agriculture due to the ashfall. We describe these impacts and classify them according to published damage/disruption states (DDS). DDS for infrastructure and agriculture were also assigned to each area using the tephra thickness thresholds suggested by previous studies reported in the volcanological literature. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether the impacts were as expected based on the DDS suggested thresholds, and to determine whether other factors, apart from ashfall thickness, played a part. DDS thresholds based on tephra thickness were a good predictor of the impacts that occurred in the semi-arid steppe area around Jacobacci. This was unexpected as the more severe impacts were related to the challenging environmental conditions (low precipitation levels, high levels of wind erosion) and the daily wind remobilisation of ash that occurred, rather than the ashfall thicknesses received. The temperate region, including Villa la Angostura and Bariloche, performed better than the DDS assigned by ashfall thickness suggested. Despite deposits as thick as 300 mm, full recovery occurred within months of the ashfall event. The DDS scales need to incorporate a wider range of system characteristics, and environmental and vulnerability factors, as we propose here.
- Automated tracking of lava lake level using thermal images at Kīlauea
Abstract: Abstract Tracking the level of the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u Crater, at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai’i, is an essential part of monitoring the ongoing eruption and forecasting potentially hazardous changes in activity. We describe a simple automated image processing routine that analyzes continuously-acquired thermal images of the lava lake and measures lava level. The method uses three image segmentation approaches, based on edge detection, short-term change analysis, and composite temperature thresholding, to identify and track the lake margin in the images. These relative measurements from the images are periodically calibrated with laser rangefinder measurements to produce real-time estimates of lake elevation. Continuous, automated tracking of the lava level has been an important tool used by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory since 2012 in real-time operational monitoring of the volcano and its hazard potential.
- Effects of eruption source parameter variation and meteorological dataset
on tephra fallout hazard assessment: example from Vesuvius (Italy)
Abstract: Abstract In this study, using the tephra dispersal model HAZMAP, we investigate the effect of using different meteorological datasets and eruption source parameters on tephra fallout hazard assessment for a sub-Plinian eruption of Vesuvius, which is considered as a reference case for hazard assessment analysis. We analyze the effect of using different meteorological data, from: i) radio-sounding carried out at the meteorological station of Brindisi (Italy) between 1962 and 1976 and between 1996 and 2012, and at Pratica di Mare (Rome, Italy) between 1995 and 2013; ii) meteorological models of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Furthermore, we consider the effects of perturbing reference eruptive source parameters. In particular, we vary the total mass, the total grain-size distribution, the column height, and the effective atmospheric diffusion coefficient to evaluate how these parameters affect the hazard probability maps. Moreover, the effect of the seasonal variation of the wind field and the effect of the rain on the deposit loading are considered. Results show that the parameter that mostly affects hazard maps is, as expected, the total erupted mass; furthermore, keeping constant the erupted mass, the most important control on hazard is due to the particle terminal settling velocity distribution which is a function of the total grain-size distribution, particle density and shape. Within the considered range variations, the hazard depends less on the use of different meteorological datasets, column height and effective diffusion coefficient.
- Probabilistic Volcanic Ash Hazard Analysis (PVAHA) II: assessment of the
Asia-Pacific region using VAPAH
Abstract: Abstract Volcanic ash is an increasingly common, long-range hazard, impacting on our globalised society. The Asia-Pacific region is rapidly developing as a major contributor to the global population and economy and is home to one-quarter of the world’s active volcanoes. Here we present a regional-scale volcanic ash hazard assessment for the Asia-Pacific using a newly developed framework for Probabilistic Volcanic Ash Hazard Analysis (PVAHA). This PVAHA was undertaken using the Volcanic Ash Probabilistic Assessment of Hazard (VAPAH) algorithm. The VAPAH algorithm considered a magnitude-frequency distribution of eruptions and associated volcanic ash load attenuation relationships for the Asia-Pacific, and integrated across all possible events to arrive at an annual exceedance probability for sites of interest. The Asia-Pacific region was divided into six sub-regions (e.g. Indonesia, Philippines and Southeast Asia, Melanesia/Australia, Japan/Taiwan, New Zealand/Samoa/Tonga/Fiji and Russia/China/Mongolia/Korea) characterised by 276 source volcanoes each with individual magnitude-frequency relationships. Sites for analysis within the Asia-Pacific region were limited to land-based locations at 1-km grid spacing, within 500 km of a volcanic source. The Indonesian sub-region exhibited the greatest volcanic ash hazard in the region at the 100-year timeframe, with additional sources (in Japan, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Kamchatka - Russia and New Zealand) along plate boundaries manifesting a high degree of hazard at the 10,000-year timeframe. Disaggregation of the volcanic ash hazard for individual sites of interest provided insight into the primary causal factors for volcanic ash hazard at capital cities in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan. This PVAHA indicated that volcanic ash hazard for Port Moresby was relatively low at all timeframes. In contrast to this, Jakarta, Manila and Tokyo are characterised by high degrees hazard at all timeframes. The greatest hazard was associated with Tokyo and the PVAHA was able to quantify that the large number of sources impacting on this location was the causal factor contributing to the hazard. This evidence-based approach provides important insights for decision makers responsible for strategic planning and can assist with prioritising regions of interest for more detailed volcanic ash hazard modelling and local scale planning.
- Probabilistic Volcanic Ash Hazard Analysis (PVAHA) I: development of the
VAPAH tool for emulating multi-scale volcanic ash fall analysis
Abstract: Abstract Significant advances have been made in recent years in probabilistic analysis of geological hazards. Analyses of this kind are concerned with producing estimates of the probability of occurrence of a hazard at a site given the location, magnitude, and frequency of hazardous events around that site; in particular Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis (PSHA). PSHA is a method for assessing and expressing the probability of earthquake hazard for a site of interest, at multiple spatial scales, in terms of probability of exceeding certain ground motion intensities. Probabilistic methods for multi-scale volcanic ash hazard assessment are less developed. The modelling framework presented here, Probabilistic Volcanic Ash Hazard Analysis (PVAHA), adapts the seismologically based PSHA technique for volcanic ash. PVAHA considers a magnitude-frequency distribution of eruptions and associated volcanic ash load attenuation relationships and integrates across all possible events to arrive at an annual exceedance probability for each site across a region of interest. The development and implementation of the Volcanic Ash Probabilistic Assessment tool for Hazard (VAPAH), as a mechanism for facilitating multi-scale PVAHA, is also introduced. VAPAH outputs are aggregated to generate maps that visualise the expected volcanic ash hazard for sites across a region at timeframes of interest and disaggregated to determine the causal factors which dominate volcanic ash hazard at individual sites. VAPAH can be used to identify priority areas for more detailed PVAHA or local scale ash dispersal modelling that can be used to inform disaster risk reduction efforts.
- Influence of volcanic tephra on photovoltaic (PV)-modules: an experimental
study with application to the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, Iceland
Abstract: Abstract Large volcanic eruptions may lead to significant tephra dispersion, crossing borders and affecting distant and industrial societies in various ways. While the effects of volcanic ash clouds on the aviation industry have been recognized, damaging effects on the photovoltaic energy sector are poorly investigated. Here we describe the influence of volcanic tephra deposition on photovoltaic (PV) modules that we experimentally analyzed and evaluated. A systematic set of experiments was conducted under controlled conditions using an artificial light source and measuring the electrical power generated from the PV-modules with the aim to determine the dependency of the amount of tephra covering a module and its subsequent loss in power production (measured in voltage and current) as well as the influence of the tephra grain size. We find that a mass of fine tephra has a stronger influence on the PV-modules power generation than the same mass of coarser particles. An application to the fine-grained 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland and the resulting ash-cloud reveals that the power produced by PV-modules in continental Europe might have been affected significantly. Deposits were thick enough to cause complete failures of PV-modules up to a distance of about 300 km downwind. Although this distance is largely over the ocean in this particular case, our results imply that similar and larger eruptions of other volcanoes elsewhere might harm commercial or private energy production at distances of hundreds to thousands of kilometers from the volcano. Given that volcanic eruptions are frequent and the fact that the PV-industry is growing rapidly, negative impacts are expected in the future, requiring close tephra dispersion monitoring and PV-maintenance strategies.
- Gaet’ale- a reactivated thermal spring and potential tourist hazard in
the Asale salt flats, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Abstract: Abstract This paper serves to document a thermal spring, called Gaet’ale, that was reactivated in 2005, during the majorseismo-volcanic crisis in the Danakil Depression of the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Many dead birds surrounding the spring attest to deadly gas emanations (almost certainly CO2) coming from this spring, reminiscent of those from other volcanic lakes, and the Pamukkale springs in Turkey. Gae’tale currently features among the tourist attractions of the Dallol region of the northern Afar, but it may pose a potentially dangerous, and even deadly, hazard for tourists and their guides. Some suggestions are made to help mitigate the risks, and to allow for sustainable geotourism in this environmentally sensitive region. These include ensuring that tour operators in the area are made aware of the hazards, and are communicating these to their tourist clients (who should also be aware of these hazards through websites, tour guidebooks and open-access scientific journals), and avoiding the areas closest to the lake, and periodic testing, with lit flames, for the presence of excess CO2 in the area, with plans for quick and safe evacuation if needed. Guidelines for proper conduct are given for geotourists who are planning to visit the region, to ensure their health and safety in the vicinity of the thermal springs.
- Sensitivity to volcanic field boundary
Abstract: Abstract Volcanic hazard analyses are desirable where there is potential for future volcanic activity to affect a proximal population. This is frequently the case for volcanic fields (regions of distributed volcanism) where low eruption rates, fertile soil, and attractive landscapes draw populations to live close by. Forecasting future activity in volcanic fields almost invariably uses spatial or spatio-temporal point processes with model selection and development based on exploratory analyses of previous eruption data. For identifiability reasons, spatio-temporal processes, and practically also spatial processes, the definition of a spatial region is required to which volcanism is confined. However, due to the complex and predominantly unknown sub-surface processes driving volcanic eruptions, definition of a region based solely on geological information is currently impossible. Thus, the current approach is to fit a shape to the known previous eruption sites. The class of boundary shape is an unavoidable subjective decision taken by the forecaster that is often overlooked during subsequent analysis of results. This study shows the substantial effect that this choice may have on even the simplest exploratory methods for hazard forecasting, illustrated using four commonly used exploratory statistical methods and two very different regions: the Auckland Volcanic Field, New Zealand, and Harrat Rahat, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For Harrat Rahat, sensitivity of results to boundary definition is substantial. For the Auckland Volcanic Field, the range of options resulted in similar shapes, nevertheless, some of the statistical tests still showed substantial variation in results. This work highlights the fact that when carrying out any hazard analysis on volcanic fields, it is vital to specify how the volcanic field boundary has been defined, assess the sensitivity of boundary choice, and to carry these assumptions and related uncertainties through to estimates of future activity and hazard analyses.
- Erratum to: Fearing the knock on the door: critical security studies
insights into limited cooperation with disaster management regimes
- Using infrasound to constrain ash plume rise
Abstract: Abstract Airborne volcanic ash advisories are currently based on analyses of satellite imagery with relatively low temporal resolution, and numerical simulations of atmospheric plume dispersion. These simulations rely on key input parameters such as the maximum height of eruption plumes and the mass eruption rate at the vent, which remain loosely constrained. In this study, we present a proof-of-concept workflow that incorporates the analysis of volcanic infrasound with numerical modelling of volcanic plume rise in a realistic atmosphere. We analyse acoustic infrasound records from two explosions during the 2009 eruption of Mt. Redoubt, USA, that produced plumes reaching heights of 12–14 km. We model the infrasonic radiation at the source under the assumptions of linear acoustic theory and calculate variations in mass ejection velocity at the vent. The estimated eruption velocities serve as the input for numerical models of plume rise. The encouraging results highlight the potential for infrasound measurements to be incorporated into numerical modelling of ash dispersion, and confirm their value for volcano monitoring operations.
- Fearing the knock on the door: critical security studies insights into
limited cooperation with disaster management regimes
Abstract: Abstract In seeking to provide for the safety of local communities in the global south, there has been an apparent policy focus on making early warning systems more robust, and improving the operation of disaster management programmes. However, the critical security studies literature has highlighted the ways in which security practices, including those nominally implemented on behalf of local communities can have negative impacts on peoples. Human security literature, in particular, highlights the ways in which the state security apparatus, which is often relied upon to notify and enforce evacuations, may often be perceived as a serious risk to communities. At the same time individuals live within complex security situations where daily threats to peoples’ lives may outweigh geological hazards. Grounded within critical literature on the social construction of risk (Lupton; Beck, Douglas), the ways in which volcanic risk is calculated, communicated, and enacted upon, will be assessed in relation to the local communities’ security dilemmas. Drawing on field work in communities at risk from lahars generated from Cotopaxi in Sangolqui, Ecuador, explores the ways in which competing claims of what constitutes security challenge the operating assumptions in emergency preparedness. In June 2012, 158 primary interviews were undertaken as a part of the EU funded VUELCO project in Ecuador. The findings were analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methodologies, drawing most heavily on interpretive methodologies to argue that the scientific representation of volcanic hazards, and the resultant disaster management strategies, do not account for local context. Indeed, the majority of interviewees indicated a lack of trust in either scientific expertise or government representatives, on questions of security. By incorporating a broader narrative of security beyond a narrow focus on natural hazards, disaster preparedness and communication plans can be more effective.
- Implications of legal scrutiny processes (including the L’Aquila trial
and other recent court cases) for future volcanic risk governance
Abstract: Abstract Discourse about the L’Aquila trial in Italy has overlooked the many different roles that laws play within risk governance. For volcanic risk governance, laws not only create the duty holders, beneficiaries and the relationships between them (the stakeholders) and the duties and rights (the stakes) but also dictate the acceptable standards of safety and wellbeing (the ultimate rewards). Within any legal regime, certain court cases will attract a high public profile. They can serve a very helpful role by opening the black box of societal risk management so that robust and candid scrutiny of the past can lead to better management of the future. With such cases, the goal of the competent observer is to advance beyond debate about contested factual details of the past (the noise of what happened) and, by process of induction, to identify wider issues of principle and precedent upon which to make reasoned improvements (the signal to guide what should happen differently in the future and why). The generic characteristics of law-based regulatory regimes are identified because they can be treated as ‘constants’ which do not change, or do so only very slowly over time. Accordingly, these aspects are highly relevant to long-term risk governance. More ephemeral case-specific factual issues often remain contested and, accordingly, receive less attention here. Significant recent court cases, including L’Aquila, are framed by process of deduction within a generalised legal infrastructure in order to identify the root causes of the apparent status quo of risk governance. This forensic approach is vital not only to identify the legal responsibilities of societal risk managers and the managerial risks that they face and their causes but also to consider possible mitigation strategies. We identify the critical issue of managerial risk vulnerability related to ‘standard equivocality’ which is the absence of commonly recognised standards for hazard communications to risk decision makers. This absence may result from the lack of regulation of relevant practices and practitioners. We offer some recommendations to fuel debate not only within those science groups that reacted to the L’Aquila case but also the scientific community as a whole. Finally, we argue that checklists represent a rational and methodical way to develop acceptable practice standards focussed upon the difficult risk mitigation choices that are made by civil protection authorities and at-risk individuals.