Evolving Hazard Monitoring and Communication at San Vicente Volcano, El Salvador

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Luke J Bowman and John Scott Gierke, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, United States
El Salvador has 20 potentially active volcanoes, four of which have erupted in the last 100 years. Since San Vicente Volcano has had no historic eruptions, monitoring is not a high priority; especially given the current eruptive crisis at San Miguel Volcano. Though probability of eruptive hazards remains low at San Vicente, it is arguably one of the most hazardous volcanoes in the country due to rainfall-induced landslides and debris-flow risk. At least 250 deaths occurred in November 2009 from landslides and debris flows triggered by Hurricane Ida. This disaster caused the Universidad de El Salvador – Facultad Multidisciplinaria Paracentral (UES-FMP, San Vicente, El Salvador) to partner with governmental and nongovernmental organizations (including the U.S. Peace Corps, U.S. Fulbright Program, Korean International Cooperation Agency, Protección Civil and the Centro de Protección para Desastres (CEPRODE)) to focus its faculty and student research toward hazard monitoring and risk studies. Newly established monitoring efforts include: measurement of surface cracks and localized rainfall by Protección Civil and local residents using crude extensometers and rain gauges; installation of six weather stations that operate within the most at-risk municipalities; seismic refraction surveys to better characterize stratigraphy and seasonal water table changes; and most recently, a USAID/NSF-funded initiative partnered with the UES-FMP to monitor seasonal hydrologic conditions related to flooding and groundwater recharge. The information from these initiatives is now used to communicate current conditions and warnings through a network of two-way radios established by CEPRODE and Protección Civil. Representatives from the multi-institutional team also communicate the data to authorities who make better-informed decisions regarding warnings and evacuations, as well as determine suitable areas for population relocation in the event of a crisis. Data will eventually be used to model and forecast potential hazard events.