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)
I was 16 when the November 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz sent hot slurries of melted snow, ash, rocks and pumice more than 70km downhill straight into several settlements in the middle of the night. At dawn the following morning the settlement of Armero had all but disappeared under this flow, taking around 75% of its residents with it. Across the valleys more than 24,000 people lost their lives to those flows.
Like me, even the youngest kids who survived or witnessed the scenes of this eruption are now middle-aged, the valleys are green again.
A kernel of volcanologists were created in that moment, and more importantly an army of eye-witnesses who directly recall the impact and agonies of that night and morning. They also have insights into the attitudes and issues that lead to the rudest possible awakening when the lahars ploughed down the slopes of the volcano.
I looked up the river, towards the mountain, and I could see so much mud. It was a huge thing with giant trees, it came with roots that have been taken from the earth, and then it hit me and covered me….I felt as if it was those machines that process rice (eyewitness account)
These eye witness testimonies contain a remarkable flow of information; as rich and insightful into past events as the deposits that volcanologists frequently scramble over. When the STREVA team held one of our forensic workshops in Colombia with our Project Partners it became clear during this, and subsequent research that a great service would come from finding a way to capture these important memories, for the people who live with the volcano now.
We are making a series of films to convey events according to those caught in it, how people live with the volcano today, and answering the most important questions the population has about living with volcanic risk. The first of these films is premiering this week at our partner Servicio Geological Colombiano’s (SGC) commemoration activities for Nevado Del Ruiz . We’ve worked with one of our UK Partners, (Lambda Films) to do this. We understand the value of well shot films, and they have been patient with our need for volcanic detail.
The aftermath of the eruption remains firmly in the world’s eye as a consequence of the images that spread around the world. Sometimes shocking, awards were handed out for the photographs that captured that desparate tragedy.
Back in 1985 and back in the UK, a fairly brave piece of children’s programming stuck with broadcasting these images and covered the last few days of life for Omayra Sanchez , as she was trapped in the mud. There was no fairytale ending for her and that remains with me today, a permanent reminder of the complex issues that surround volcanic disasters. With our films we’re not looking to shock anyone but we are looking to work with SGC to use these memories to learn how to improve the outcome from the next eruption. We hope we have done justice to the communities of Nevado del Ruiz who continue to thrive around the volcano.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the films and the filming, and to the UK Natural Environment and Economic and Social Research Councils for KE funding. All photos in this blog by Anna Hicks, unless otherwise stated.
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
This includes the launch of the UNISDR Science and Technical Advisory Group Report. They conclude that science should be ‘useful, usable and used’ and when that happens its a powerful tool in reducing the impact of hazardous events. The science community can still offer even more by making their information, evidence and monitoring more available and accessible. The Group recommends doing this via knowledge sharing, multidisciplinary approaches and partnerships at many scales. Bravo!
USEFUL, USABLE and USED: the monitoring of Tungurahua in Ecuador
One of the case studies used in the Report provides a powerful example of this type of usuable science. The UNISDR case study focusses on the relationships between the monitoring organisation (IG-EPN) and a network of volcano watchers (vigias) drawn from the villages nearest to the volcano. However, the scientific effort extends far beyond that, and a new open-access paper in the Journal of Applied Volcanology provides a fantastic first-hand record of:
the data from 15 years of eruptive activity;
the social, political and cultural landscape into which the volcano erupted and
the experience of that for the scientists involved and the steps they took to cope and to encourage the most effective use of their monitoring data.
The IG-EPN have set up a local observatory (Observatorio del Volcan Tungurahua, OVT), partly thanks to the loan of a local hacienda. Staff provide a sustained presence from Quito on shifts lasting 8 days, this sustained presence has contributed to a turnaround in local attitudes to the monitoring scientists and in turn the utility of the data and intepretations they provide.
“..at the most critical moment [ in 2000] some hotel owners threatened to chase out OVT scientists with machetes and even to set the observatory on fire! (Mothes et. al. 2015)”
The willingness of the IG-EPN to continue to engage via frequent interaction with both local communities and decision-makers in addition to their collaboration with the vigias is a truly inspiring example of making life work for communities around an active volcano. Despite the fact that the scientists involved have numerous volcanic crises to deal with they have taken the time to share their data and experiences to date in this fascinating paper. What a priviledge, you should read it!
“Developing trust between local people, authorities and scientists is mutually beneficial, especially when the mission is long (Mothes et al., 2015)”
Then, just after Christmas, most of the south of England disappeared under water and it was like ….errrr…. no-one had read any of these rules or anything. How did that happen? Howls of ‘not listening’ ‘mis-trust’ ‘betrayal’ and ‘where’s your evidence…’. There were also wellies, a lot of wellies and it was like they’d been given these Top Tips instead:
The overwhelming mental image I had was of a bunch of individuals standing on chairs in the wet with loud hailers, announcing their views in the hope that the loud hailer would help them get their point across.
The Top Tips Series are quite brilliant too; and it was exhilarating to see that sort of discussion sprawling in print with no apparent great crisis to have provoked the interest. Granted, a full blown natural disaster is not the place to start making policy, but, it is the place where really good risk management decisions have to be made and fast and by all sorts of people from householders to councils to national government. Sitting at the heart of these decisions is undoubtedly good scientific knowledge.
My metaphor now involves cooking a really great dish; with five or six ingredients and in a hurry. The Top Tips are like some really brilliant tasting notes for individual ingredients. Really helpful, but what you lack is the knowledge about how to bring them together and which bits are going to be the key to making the dish really tasty. That, my friends, needs a little experimentation, interaction and a conversation: a proper one with listening and stuff.
That’s tricky in a crisis…..but to stretch the metaphor further, if you’ve had some good practice at bringing the ingredients together and understand their value, then you’ll be able to whip something up in no time that everyone likes.
That’s the hypothesis the STREVA project is building on: that by considering risk from many different standpoints we might do better in a volcanic crisis.
Finally, in the midst of all this flood-inspired opinion and *concerned faces* I read a paragraph in a paper(*) that throws some brilliant clarity on where science and its communication fits into this.
Let’s all come to the table and take a seat.
‘Because science communication seeks to inform decision making, it must begin by listening to its audience, to identify the decisions that is members face- and, therefore, the information that they need. In contrast, science education begins by listening to scientists and learning the facts that they wish to convey. Science education provides the foundation for science communication. The more that people know about a science (e.g. volcanology), the easier it will be to explain the facts that matter in specific decisions (e.g. evacuation). The more that people know about the scientific process per se, the easier it will be for science communications to explain the uncertainties and controversies that science inevitably produces.‘
…..or alternatively you could just play decision-making Top Trumps and try your luck…..
(*) I changed the examples used to fit my own needs but the paper is by Baruch Fischhoff ‘The Sciences of Science Communication’ in PNAS 110:14033-14039.
Last week we were lucky enough to work with the British Museum’s ‘Pompeii Live’ Team, helping to introduce some ideas about volcanic processes for their Schools Broadcast. In a series of excellent and exciting adventures we used the bins and balls to create explosions, and tried to show hard it would be for our Playmobile charioteer to out run the (liquid nitrogen) surge. Check out Jon Stone’s Storify page that captures the fun!
Of course, as much as possible, we wanted to link it to the unfolding events in 79 A.D. So, it was also a splendid opportunity to engage with some of the painstaking research that has been done to recover a true record of precisely what happened.
In addition to the volcanological aspects, the Exhibition itself is a stunning glimpse into the lives impacted by the eruption. Although much was obliterated on that day; the objects left behind provide compelling if sometimes sombre insights into Roman life and the manner in which those lives were so abruptly truncated. ‘Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum‘ indeed.
The story of the range of techniques used and the ingenuity applied in providing these reconstructions is almost as compelling as the narrative they reveal. Although there was no tweeting, no blogging*, no 24 hour rollings news, nor even vox pops from flustered scientists we understand pretty well the timings and driving forces behind the eruptions. We also understand much about the daily lives, cultural richness, interests and foibles of those left behind. Objects ranging from pumice through to bones, and leather have been subjected to tests and analysis to provide the reconstruction. A fabulous example of forensic volcanology: the physical, biological, chemical and geological properties of the objects left behind virtually ‘whispering’ to us about what happened. The exceptional preservation of the artefacts left mean that they are positively shouting about the people who had worn, used and created them.
The aims of the STREVA project could loosely be paraphrased as research aimed at trying to prevent another Pompeii (or even a mini Pompeii) elsewhere in the world. So, its no surprise then that we are taking a forensic approach to our initial analysis. This time, instead of archaeological whispers we are collecting real voices and sharing geophysical data and eruption records in three locations where the population have lived with and monitored long-lived eruptions. The hypothesis here is that by ‘listening carefully’ to data that ranges from seismic waveforms to the personal recollections of those who have had to adapt when faced with volcanic activity we will identify the most important dimensions of risk.
By doing better at analysing risk (and the global report card to date says ‘could do much better‘) then we can understand the underlying causes and identify systematically the stumbling blocks to societal resilience to eruptions. So, we need to listen very carefully to each and any source of information. Luckily, the process of listening is edifying, inspiring and humbling; David Pyle wrote about our first forensic workshop in Montserrat in September.
We are about to have our second in Banos in Ecuador, organised by IG-EPN with STREVA. They’ve already run some fantastic outreach art classes with the local children and we’ll talk with scientists, mayors, communities and emergency responders around the long-lived eruption of Tungarahua.
Pompeii Live is screened in UK Cinemas on the evening of the 18th of June, and the Schools version on the morning of the 19th of June. Follow #PompeiiLive for updates.
Here is a link to a summary paper on 79 A.D. and its impacts from Giacomelli et al., from 2003 that can be accessed by anyone following this link. it illusrates some of the types of data that have been used.
El Volcan es mi Vecino is happening between the 12th and 19th of June around Tungarahua and Cuicocha in Ecuador. You can follow STREVA and IG-EPN on Twitter at @StrevaProject and @IGEPN
Inspired by some fascinating discussions at Yesterday’s StrevaProject meeting in today’s blog I am going to borrow an exciting concept from the world of literature: the metaphor! I’m using my metaphor to write a short play about risk communication and understanding risk communication (my plundering of the Humanities knows no bounds).
The beauty of this metaphor is that you can apply it to any kind of information exchange around a risky situation. In my head I am applying the metaphor to the communication of scientific information either before or during a volcanic crisis, what are you thinking of?
Risk manager: I’m hungry and also a little thirsty. I could really do with an orange to help me out.
Scientist: Da-nah! I’ve got an apple!
Risk manager (deflated): oh
Scientist: I think you are hungry and need this apple, it’s what I could find. Take it!
Risk manager: OK. Thanks.
TAKES APPLE AND LEAVES IT TO ROT IN BOWL
Scientist: Hmmmmmmmm…….. that didn’t go very well. I can’t be explaining it clearly enough. Let’s try again!
Scientist: I’ve got an apple. YOU NEED IT. Here, I have prepared a handy factsheet that explains really clearly why the apple is great. [general applause from audience of scientists]
Risk Manager (thinks): I don’t really like apples. I’m also a little bit thirsty. (says): Thanks.
TAKES APPLE AND LEAVES IT TO ROT IN BOWL. THROWS FACTSHEET IN BIN.
Scientist: Hmmmmmmm…..I’ve a funny feeling they think they need an orange. I know, I’ll make it seem like an orange.
Scientist: I’ve got an apple, and look I’ve painted it orange because we’ve known each other a while now and I think I know what you need! It’s an apple that is a bit like an orange!
Risk Manager: hmmmmmmm….. well thanks, then [pauses] Look can we talk about this; I’m not sure about the apple.
Scientist (thinks): Oh no! They want me to join a FOCUS GROUP. They are probably going to make me talk about how I FEEL about APPLES. I can’t do this. This is messing with my objective INTEGRITY, they are trying to make me give them an orange and help them juice it. Well, I simply won’t (says): Look, you need an apple pal, just take THE APPLE.
Risk Manager ( Sighs): OK. Let’s talk about this down the pub then.
[walk offstage, pause, drink, chat, beer, social capital social capital, re-enter stage]
Scientist: Well look, if it’s the orange you really want; the problem is I can only give you a few segments and just explain what the rest probably looks like. In the meantime the apple will also help a bit.
Risk Manager: Now you are talking…let’s take it from there.
I wrote this play because at our meeting we performed a simple ranking exercise about priorities during a volcanic crisis and good communication consistently ranked very highly across the diverse group of experts present. It is important. And yet, sometimes we seem to be content to react instinctively about what works best; and nervousness about objectivity and dialogue around scientific information abounds. Plain old experience of what works counts for a lot in these situations, but, given how important it is, there is a lot we could do to gather evidence for what works and develop and test hypotheses. Perhaps communication processes deserve a similar level of analysis and respect to that which we give our physical data.
The theory [*] tells us somewhat that the final approach in my play should work best, but I don’t think we fully understand if it does; why it does and what works best in different volcanic contexts. It makes it an exciting field to be in! As part of the StrevaProject we hope to carefully gather and analyse evidence for the communication of risk to those affected by volcanic eruptions. Follow our progress with @StrevaProject
(*) If you are new to this game here are a couple of papers. A link to a starter for ten and another to a paper that summarises some of the thinking on volcanic risk communication from an earlier interdisciplinary project (SPIDER Network, website sadly now defunct)