Advances in volcano monitoring and risk reduction in Latin America

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Wendy A McCausland1, Randall A White2, Andrew B Lockhart1, Jeffrey N Marso1, Volcano Disaster Assitance Program1 and Latin American Volcano Observatories3, (1)U.S.Geological Survey, Vancouver, WA, United States, (2)USGS, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (3)Volcanic Observatories, Latin America, Colombia
We describe results of cooperative work that advanced volcanic monitoring and risk reduction. The USGS-USAID Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) was initiated in 1986 after disastrous lahars during the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz dramatizedthe need to advance international capabilities in volcanic monitoring, eruption forecasting and hazard communication. For the past 28 years, VDAP has worked with our partners to improve observatories, strengthen monitoring networks, and train observatory personnel.

We highlight a few of the many accomplishments by Latin American volcano observatories. Advances in monitoring, assessment and communication, and lessons learned from the lahars of the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz eruption and the 1994 Paez earthquake enabled the Servicio Geológico Colombiano to issue timely, life-saving warnings for 3 large syn-eruptive lahars at Nevado del Huila in 2007 and 2008. In Chile, the 2008 eruption of Chaitén prompted SERNAGEOMIN to complete a national volcanic vulnerability assessment that led to a major increase in volcano monitoring. Throughout Latin America improved seismic networks now telemeter data to observatories where the decades-long background rates and types of seismicity have been characterized at over 50 volcanoes. Standardization of the Earthworm data acquisition system has enabled data sharing across international boundaries, of paramount importance during both regional tectonic earthquakes and during volcanic crises when vulnerabilities cross international borders. Sharing of seismic forecasting methods led to the formation of the international organization of Latin American Volcano Seismologists (LAVAS). LAVAS courses and other VDAP training sessions have led to international sharing of methods to forecast eruptions through recognition of precursors and to reduce vulnerabilities from all volcano hazards (flows, falls, surges, gas) through hazard assessment, mapping and modeling. Satellite remote sensing data-sharing facilitatescross-border identification and warnings of ash plumes for aviation.

Overall, long-term strategies of data collection and experience-sharing have helped Latin American observatories improve their monitoring and create informed communities cognizant of vulnerabilities inherent in living near volcanoes.