Volcanologists are rarely ‘ivory tower’ scientists, few are immune to the delights or the impacts of the phenomena they study on those who are around to witness them.
Instinctively we want to share the wonder we find in witnessing eruptions, the key messages for those wishing to avoid harm, and the joy of volcanological research! Increasingly, this instinct is also being supplemented by carefully devised and analysed communication strategies.
Film and video is one of the most important ways we communicate our science so the time was right to share, celebrate and inspire one another with the wide range of efforts being made across the globe by volcanologists and the researchers and communities with whom they work.
This playlist below forms the majority of entries to the splendidly well received ‘Volcano Movie Night(s)’ at Cities on Volcanoes 9 in Puerto Varas. The enthusiastic audience of > 100 moviegoers voted for the winners across four categories.
See if you agree! Thank you to everyone who submitted their film.
CATEGORY ONE: CONVEYING NEW RESEARCH AND UNDERSTANDING OF VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS
(1) La erupción del Volcán Caulle: Eduardo Jaramillo & Felipe Dreves, Universidad Austral del Chile
(2) Monitoring Yasur, Vanuatu. Geoff Lerner, University of Auckland
(3) Huellas de eventos naturales extremos: Erupción del Volcán Calbuco, sur de Chile / Abril-Mayo 2015 : Eduardo Jaramillo & Felipe Dreves, Universidad Austral del Chile
(4) “Catching the Quakes: tracking seismic signals generated by debris flows: Liz Westby, United States Geological Survey
AND THE CATEGORY WINNER IS:
(5) Il Proyecto Huayruro: Rachel Gusset (Universite de la Reunion)
CATEGORY TWO: CAPTURING ERUPTIVE PHENOMENA
(1) Lahar front at Merapi Volcano, Indonesia, Sandy Budi Obowo, Universite de la Sorbonne, France
(2) Volcanic Infrasound, Isaac Kerlow, University of Singapore
AND THE CATEGORY WINNER IS:
(3) Eruption of Tolbachik, Marina and Alexander Belousov
For copyright reasons the original spectacular video and the soundtrack used can’t be shown, but here are two excerpts containing some of that material. It won’t disappoint- and if you would like access to the original video please contact the Belousovs!
CATEGORY THREE: RISK COMMUNICATION
(1) The Colombia-US Bi-National Exchange: Liz Westby, USGS
(2) Eruption – La Soufriere, St. Vincent. STREVA Project
(3) The 1932 Eruption of Quizapu: (uncovered by Gabriela Jara, Sernageomin)
As a kid, I used to cycle out to our local volcano (albeit a Devonian felsite intrusion : Tinto Hill ) and explore an ‘Iron Age’ hillfort on its flanks. Its inhabitants were probably among the first to benefit directly from the fabulous geological diversity of the Scottish Midland Valley.
So, as a consequence of geology, I grew up just a few miles from my nearest coal mine, steelworks; sand and gravel quarries, and just over 20 miles from the Leadhills where over 70 different minerals can be found (including gold!). All that made last week’s news that the very last remnants of the Scottish steel industry were ‘under threat’ all the more poignant. The cold winds of the 1984-85 miner’s strike whip through my memories of secondary school; the towers of Ravenscraig happened to come down when I was home on a visit during my PhD.
When these rocks were laid down Scotland benefited from an arid- equatorial climate and the Midland Valley was filled with restricted swampy shallow tropical seas or lakes in a complex ‘graben’ that provided the lithospheric stretching that allowed for occasional activation of volcanic centres. Rivers flowed from the Highlands into the valley.
These provided the perfect conditions for producing sediments rich in iron-ore and coal beds that provided the ‘heat’ to smelt them.
Ever since the Iron Age we’ve been enjoying these riches, in the 19th Century industry flourished as Scottish ‘pig-iron’ was smelted by Scottish coal to fuel the building of railways and ships. Scientists contributed ideas that refined and improved these processes and Scotland was an ‘early adopter’ of new ideas. In 1869 David Bremner wrote
“The blast furnaces are chiefly concentrated in the vicinity of Coatbridge, Airdrie, and Wishaw, all of which towns were rapidly raised to importance by the development of the mineral treasures which lay beneath and around them…..’
In the late 1800s Coatbridge and its iron generation was usurped by the ‘Steelopolis’ of Motherwell. Soon, the dark clouds of market forces (cheaper materials elsewhere) and politics arrived and so the long hard battles of the next century began.
One of the core aims of the STREVA Project is to use learning from past eruptions to better anticipate impacts and interactions from future activity. Sounds super-logical and simple. It’s not quite that easy: taking a ‘forensic’ approach (trying to gather evidence from a variety of different sources and disciplines) is a wrigglier, harder-to-pin-down process, than you might imagine.
Data that you thought might be lurking under the metaphorical unturned stone melts away in the daylight, re-collection and facts can shape-shift as a function of how you pose the questions, and sometimes there is just so _much_ data its hard to know where to start. No matter!
So, the last few weeks have seen a bit of a quiet ‘ta-dah’ moment for STREVA: some of the first papers from the ‘forensic process’ on Montserrat have started to appear in print. As means of celebration here is my brief summary of their findings for two plus – for those of you interested in the social impacts of such a long-lived eruption my best attempt to provide a library of other worthwhile reading – these new papers have built on an already considerable body of work.
Paper 1: All is not equal in an eruption
A key starting point in STREVA is that most of the drivers of risk are dynamic, and they will change in response to changing activity. The ‘trick’ with our analysis is determine which drivers make the biggest differences under what circumstance.
Remarkably, relatively little work has been done on social vulnerability during the Soufriere Hills eruptions and less still on the long term trajectory of this variable. . The ‘vulnerability’ team tackled this by mapping out the outcomes of events for the population of Montserrat, then focussing in on some of the most vulnerable individuals.
Volcanoes can be devastating; it does not matter if you have a crown upon your head when a pyroclastic flow comes calling, if you are in the way, you will die.
However, no-one spends the entirety of a volcanic eruption in the direct pathway of an oncoming density current. So, pre-existing inequalities had a role to play beyond the emergency, particularly in driving individuals back to the land to farm. In essence fewer ‘livelihoods assets’ prior to the eruption constrained options for adaptation to new conditions. The most vulnerable in this sense were: evacuees in long-term shelter accomodation; poorer non-migrants who re-settled in the north and assisted passage migrants to the UK. Stress was a unifying theme across all of these groups.
Trajectories did shift, for example, the capacity for some people to cope tumbled when they found themselves having to pay mortgages on abandoned homes; and there has been some upwards social mobility for those re-located in the UK with access to a wider job market.
The eruption in its initial stages was a great leveller but very soon the unequal playing field onto which it erupted had a strong role to play in individual outcomes.
Paper 2: Learning from a crisis that lasts longer than a political lifecycle
Following the initial crisis period on Montserrat, which culminated in a series of devastating pyroclastic density currents that killed 19 people and injured several more (see Paper 1 above and Loughlin et al., 2002 for how and why this happened) there was a well publicised review of the UK Governmental Response known as the ‘Clay Report’ (after the first author) published in 1999. Since then there have been several papers by Amy Donovan that have focussed on the interaction between the science of forecasting future activity and policy making (e.g. Donovan and Oppenheimer, 2014, Donovan et al., 2013) but little else that has looked at how governance has shaped and been shaped by the volcanic activity.
The paper maps out the chains of decision-making and the nature and impact of these governance processes across the whole length of the eruption to examine the extent to which the process of the disaster helped to shape or even transform preparedness or adaptations to volcanic activity in this complex governance environment.
In small island states disasters on this scale inevitably need external support; the effectiveness of that support depends on good coordination; and in turn should inspire rapid transformation and adaptation to the new circumstances.
Speaking of transformation; Montserrat has now had 5 years without new magma appearing at the surface of Soufriere Hills and recovery should be taking root. A country well worth a visit.
Donovan, A.R., Oppenheimer, C., Bravo, M., “Science at the policy interface: Volcano-monitoring technologies and volcanic hazard management” Bulletin of Volcanology 74(5): 1005-1022 doi:10.1007/s00445-012-0581-5
Kokelaar, B.P. Setting, chronology and consequences of the eruption of Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat (1995-1999) (2002) Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 21:1–43,doi:10.1144/GSL.MEM.2002.021.01.02
Overview of the eruption and the scientific response from one of the co-authors on the Clay Report
S. C. Loughlin, P. J. Baxter, W. P. Aspinall, B. Darroux, C. L. Harford, and A. D. Miller (2002) Eyewitness accounts of the 25 June 1997 pyroclastic flows and surges at Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat, and implications for disaster mitigation Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 21:211–230,doi:10.1144/GSL.MEM.2002.021.01.10
You may not have noticed but next week is the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (#WCDRR) It’s tagline is ‘Resilient People. Resilient Planet. ’ Its the biggest ‘disasters meeting for a decade and should be a fantastic exposition of ideas and evidence for how to achieve a disaster resilient planet.
Meanwhile, on a relatively small island in the Caribbean we will be enacting some of that theme, by considering how to make communities more resilient to the dirty menace of volcanic ash.
Thanks to a UK NERC IOF Award a multi-disciplinary team of researchers(*) are assembling to investigate how volcanic ash impacts on communities, how predictions of ash dispersal can be improved and how communication and mitigation of the risks can be addressed in order to improve resilience.
We are going to use past and possible future eruptions from Soufriere, St. Vincent to focus our thinking.
In the STREVA project a key theme emerging across our study regions is the role that volcanic ash plays in disrupting lives and livelihoods across all scales: from major disruption of international air traffic to the destruction of individual livelihoods via irreparable damage to crops and livestock or health problems.
As an exemplar you can hear the people of St. Vincent talking about the immediate impacts from the 1979 eruption of Soufriere here.
What we are trying to understand is where the state of the art in the science meets the needs of a population trying to cope with ash; and where it still comes up wanting. We’re not assuming that volcanic ash is a wholly negative thing; and as researchers want to learn from the affected populations about their coping strategies, past present and future.
To do this we are having two days of scientific discussion followed by a third day where we are meeting with those involved with reducing and mitigating risk as well as the civil aviation authorities, agriculturalists, transport and infrastructure planners who will be on the frontline when the ash begins to fall.
We want to discuss together what will cause the greatest disruption and what improved knowledge and communication processes might help anticipate and solve problems, and even how to turn ash into an asset in the longer term.
Our thinking should produce some immediate ideas about how this will apply to a future eruption of St. Vincent(**) but we will also consider general problems and use it to frame new scientific advances in this field.
We hope this is an active demonstration of how the resilience revolution will arrive; through partnership and collaboration between scientists and the populations affected by the hazards.
You can follow our discussions on @StrevaProject.
(*) Researchers from the UK, Trinidad, Barbados, Belgium and New Zealand are involved in the two day discussion meeting along with practitioners and planners from St. Kitts, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad along with around 30 key stakeholders from St. Vincent coming to our ash workshop, including the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) on St. Vincent who have helped us with the organization.
(**) Immediately following our workshop is the St. Vincent ‘Country Conference on ‘Promoting a Culture of Safety: Building Resilience to Disasters and Stimulating Sustainable Development’ where we will present our initial findings and some of our broader work on the STREVA Project.
(10 geologists visiting and studying Ascension rocks)
(This article first appeared, without images, in the ‘Islander’ Newspaper in Ascension in June 2014. Our project is funded by TheLeverhulme Trust).
Like many unexpected islands in the middle of an ocean, Ascension is here because it is volcanic. It was discovered in 1501 by a Portuguese seafarer, but since then neither passing ships nor any of the people living on the island have borne witness to an eruption. Nonetheless, Ascension owes its rugged surfaces and sloping hills to many past volcanic events, building the land over hundreds of thousands of years. It could erupt again in the future, but there are no signs or signals of a threat.
We are a diverse team of ten researchers from the University of East Anglia, University of Durham, the British Geological Survey, the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow and the University of Oklahoma (USA) visiting the island between the 23rd of June and the 11th of July.
We are interested in your volcanic island for two reasons! (1) We want to understand its volcanic activity in the past and consider what this might tell us if an eruption were to occur in the future. (2) Its fantastic assortment of rocks make it an ideal place to work on ideas about how volcanic systems build up and change over time and how this relates to the supply of magma (molten rock). The beaches and mountains of this sub-tropical volcanic island provide a unique opportunity to work on a fascinating eruption history, allowing us to develop and test new ways to understand this type of volcanic island.
To do this we are going to describe and analyse the varied types of rocks we find around the island. This will help us to try to understand the type, size and impact of the past eruptions on the island You may also see us getting our hammers out to sample some of these rocks and take them back home for further analysis. This analysis will help us date how the island built up over time, understand better what caused the magma to form below the surface and interpret what changes below the surface triggered the eruptions.
We would like to talk to many people when we are here – so if you see us out and about do feel free to stop us and ask us some more about what we are doing. We will be the ones with the rucksacks, the hammers and the red-looking faces. Of course, we’ll be sure to report back our results to those who are interested once we understand a little bit more about the fantastic geology of your island!
One of the experiments that we have tried before Universities Week, is the ‘ rubbish-bin bang’. This is a very British adaptation of the original ‘Trash Can Volcano’ (or Trashcano) with materials made freely available by Karen Harrp and colleagues in the USA. It is a fantastic analogue for some types of volcanic explosion. Among a few other things, we’ve added ‘tephra’ into the trashcano mix: ‘tephra’ is the name for the rock fragments and particles ejected during a volcanic eruption(*).
In these experiments, a coke bottle is filled with liquid nitrogen, and the lid replaced and tightened and put into a ‘bin’ containing water and light plastic balls. The vapourising nitrogen pressurises the bottle until the plastic fails, generating an exciting explosion. The release of energy pushes the balls and water up into the air, just like an eruptive column.
However, the undoubted priviledge of running our humble…
Face it! W1A (*): slivers of recognition are making the nation’s academics’ collective toes curl. Branding! Marketing! It’s all a bit not very Ivory Tower… but… pause; think for a minute… if you are interested at all in the communication of your science then there are some strong intersections between marketing and science communication. You can’t communicate well without understanding your audience….duh!
To help you out, I’ve applied the very latest colour branding technology analysis using my very own top analysing skills – I’ve carefully unearthed how these projects want you to feel when you come across them in your Twitter Feed (based on project logos in my feed!)
First up: its the Red-dominated crew:
These logos should make you feel that these projects are intense, passionate and possibly slightly angry. You want these people when you are in a tight spot, they’ll be brave and yell at people. Or, alternatively run about studying volcanoes.
Follow these two on @VMSG_UK and @StrevaProject.
The most popular logo colour in my feed was blue.
Blue is associated with the depth and stability of sky and sea. So, I expect Ocean2Ice must have focus-grouped that logo for at least at month to get so bang on trend for a project on sea-sky-ice. Full marks!
Nice one too, ESRC, dark blue stands for knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness! No messing about with that logo! GfGD and EwF use light blue to introduce tranquility and understanding to their science offering.
NERC stands out with its unusual greens These are associated with harmony, calm and nature! Soooooo…. clever for the Natural Environment Research Council. Watch out though NERC if you go any more yellow on that light green then that can be associated with sickness, cowardice, discord, and jealousy… uh-oh NERC that would make for an angry kind of town meeting if you emphasised that on your banner!
EGU‘s bright yellow however is associated with intellect, freshness and joy — skippee yippee. If that Viennese poster session is wearing you down – go stand next to the logo and breath in deeply!
VUELCO with their striking black are channelling the powerful elegance of their science – just enough of that mighty red to pull us away from the flipside negative association with naughty pirates that a pure black and white brings. It also remind us about the MAGMA! Nice!
White, of course, implies perfection. Only expect the best from Accacia Twitter Feed, folks! Anything else is second best!
Finally here come the ‘mixers’
Shoving a bit of orange into your Outreach project is pure genius… orange means….joy, sunshine,enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation! Wow! no need for any fancy gimmicky hands-on experiments if your logo is orange. You just need to turn up with your logo on your t-shirt!
Finally, apparently, LondonVolcano’s powerful red-blue-yellow makes us all think of superheroes. Who doesn’t want to learn about volcanoes from something that makes you think about superheroes? Not me!
You can follow these three here on Twitter: @OxfordSparks; @VolcTopTrumps and @LondonVolcano.