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Title: An analysis of the issuance of volcanic alert levels during volcanic crises
Authors: Winson, Annie Elizabeth Grace
Costa, Fidel
Newhall, Christopher G.
Woo, Gordon
Keywords: Volcano Unrest
DRNTU::Social sciences::Geography::Environmental sciences
Hazard Analysis
Issue Date: 2014
Source: Winson, A. E. G., Costa, F., Newhall, C. G., & Woo, G. (2014). An analysis of the issuance of volcanic alert levels during volcanic crises. Journal of Applied Volcanology, 3, 14-. doi:10.1186/s13617-014-0014-6
Series/Report no.: Journal of Applied Volcanology
Abstract: Volcano Alert Levels (VALs) are used by volcanologists to quickly and simply inform local populations and government authorities of the level of volcanic unrest and eruption likelihood. Most VALs do not explicitly forecast volcanic activity but, in many instances they play an important role in informing decisions: defining exclusion zones and issuing evacuation alerts. We have performed an analysis on VALs (194 eruptions, 60 volcanoes) to assess how well they reflect unrest before eruption and what other variables might control them. We have also looked at VALs in cases where there was an increase in alert level but no eruption, these we term 'Unrest without eruption' (UwE). We have analyzed our results in the context of eruption and volcano type, instrumentation, eruption recurrence, and the population within 30 km. We found that, 19% of the VALs issued between 1990 and 2013 for events that ended with eruption accurately reflect the hazard before eruption. This increases to ~30% if we only consider eruptions with a VEI ≥ 3. VALs of eruptions from closed-vent volcanoes are more appropriately issued than those from open-vents. These two observations likely reflect the longer and stronger unrest signals associated with large eruptions from closed vents. More appropriate VAL issuance is also found in volcanoes with monitoring networks that are moderately-well equipped (3-4 seismometers, GPS and gas monitoring). There is also a better correlation between VALs and eruptions with higher population density. We see over time (1990 to 2013) that there was an increase in the proportion of `UwE’ alerts to other alerts, suggesting increasing willingness to use VALs well before an eruption is certain. The number of accurate VALs increases from 19% to 55% if we consider all UwE alerts to be appropriate. This higher `success’ rate for all alerts (with or without eruption) is improving over time, but still not optimal. We suggest that the low global accuracy of the issuance of VALs could be improved by having more monitoring networks equipped to a medium level, but also by using probabilistic hazard management during volcanic crisis.
DOI: 10.1186/s13617-014-0014-6
Rights: © 2014 Winson et al.; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:EOS Journal Articles

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