Using GIS to Monitor Volcano Activity


On August 24th, 79 CE Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying the Roman settlements of Pompeii & Herculaneum. Remains of approximately 1,500 people have been discovered, but the overall death toll is still unknown. Click on the following link if you would like background information on the catastrophe: Vesuvius Erupts.

GIS provides a tool for extending hazard and vulnerability mapping to assist in the analysis of risk.

The USGS Volcano Hazards Program aims to increase safety and awareness for the public, while minimizing the social and economic disruptions caused by eruptions. This is achieved through the delivery of effective forecasts, warnings, and information of volcano hazards based on scientific understanding of volcanic process.

VHP develops both long and short-term volcano hazards assessments. Long-term assessments are based upon detailed geologic mapping and dating a volcano's deposits, which provide the record of past eruptions. Using the knowledge of past behavior, models of potential volcanic hazards (i.e. ash plumes, lava flow, or volcanic debris flow pathways and travel times) are created. Geologic and modeling data are integrated into high-resolution topographic mapping of the landscape and analyzed using GIS to develop comprehensive hazard-zonation maps and assessments, which may include risk and vulnerability analysis and/or probabilistic recurrence information. These provided an essential basis for monitoring network design, long-term eruption forecasting, land-use planning, and short-term emergency planning. During an eruption, real-time monitoring, observations, and hazards models are combined to evaluate the most likely hazards on a day-to-day basis, which feed into short-term hazards assessments.

Click on the picture below to take a quick "quiz" on volcanoes!

The integration of science, technology, and knowledge of past eruptions is saving lives from natural disasters, which is yet another reason why GIS is vital to progress and change!