EUROVOLC: bringing the European volcano community together / / by Julia Crummy

Dr Julia Crummy has a been volcanologist at the British Geological Survey since 2013. Her research interests range from field mapping of tephra fall deposits from explosive eruptions to volcanic hazard, impact and vulnerability analysis. One of Julia's roles in the team is the communication of volcano-related activities within BGS. Here she tells us about BGS' involvement in the EUROVOLC project... 

Mt Vesuvius overlooking the Bay of Naples. Much of the area is built up with over two million people potentially exposed to volcanic hazards from a future Mt Vesuvius eruption. Photo © Josef Faustmann

There are over 60 active volcanic systems in Europe and European overseas territories including the UK territories of Montserrat, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. However, because of increased globalisation and international supply chains, Europe is also vulnerable to eruptions worldwide. Therefore, there is a need for the European volcanological community to provide a coordinated response to global volcanic events. 

In February 2018, BGS attended the inaugural meeting of the European Network of Observatories and Research Infrastructures for Volcanology (EUROVOLC) project in Keflavik, Iceland. The principle focus of EUROVOLC is to encourage integration of the European volcanological community by linking scientists and stakeholders and connecting still isolated volcanological infrastructures located at in-situ volcano observatories and volcanological research institutions. The three-year project is funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 involving over 190 researchers across 19 institutions. 

EUROVOLC kick-off meeting, Iceland, February 2018

As the project enters its final few months, we’re in full flow, with BGS leading research in, and contributing to, nine of the twelve joint research and networking work packages. Our work is centred on Sub-Surface processes, Volcano-Atmosphere Interaction, Community Building and Volcanic Crisis Preparedness and Risk Management themes.

Community building is an overarching theme of EUROVOLC with initiatives to build resilient, sustained connections within the European volcanological community that will exist beyond the timeline of this project. This includes the provision of training through summer schools in Italy and Iceland to predominantly early career scientists, and free access to volcano observatories and volcano infrastructure to promote best practises in volcano monitoring and transnational research.

We’re also focusing on three other themes: 

Sub-Surface Processes 

This theme addresses the detection and interpretation of volcano monitoring data including seismic, deformation, gas geochemistry and petrological data. Early detection of signs that magma is moving towards the surface, the timing of eruption onset, possible transitions in eruptive style, and eruption end are all key for hazard monitoring and management. This theme is investigating integrated and automated modelling approaches for interpreting monitoring data (including petrological) together in near-real time to gain a better understanding of the sub-surface processes. 

Volcano-Atmosphere Interaction

During volcanic eruptions an urgent priority is to characterise the plume characteristics, such as mass flux, plume height, particle and gas characteristics. These eruption source parameter data are used to drive operational volcanic ash transport and dispersal models such as those used by VAACs and agencies responsible for civil hazard warnings. BGS is leading research in the Volcano-Atmosphere Interaction theme on characterising eruption source parameters using data from past eruptions and developing probability density functions for improved ash dispersal modelling. We are also developing tools for the real-time application of observations during an ongoing eruption. Part of our research also focuses on pre-eruptive unrest detection with the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 

Volcanic ash plume rising from Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, April 2010. Volcanic ash is being transported into the atmosphere away from the volcano. Ash can also be seen falling from the plume.

Volcanic Crisis-Preparedness and Risk Management

The final theme aims to bring together volcano monitoring institutions, civil protection agencies and volcanological research institutions to better prepare for and respond to volcanic crises. Activities include the development and compilation of tools for hazard assessment and risk management and the development of a complete European Catalogue of European Volcanoes and related volcanic hazards, for which BGS provided information and data on Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.

Within this theme, BGS is leading a work package on collaboration between volcano monitoring institutions and European Civil Protection agencies for management of volcanic risk. We aim to build a European capability and capacity to plan for and respond to volcanic unrest and eruption through the development of new methods to facilitate sharing and promotion of good practices in communication of hazard, including communication between scientists and authorities on topics of scenarios, probabilistic vs. deterministic methods and uncertainty.

The EUROVOLC project has created a citizen science web-service tool for which BGS led the development. BGS digital carried out a design sprint and two one-week development sprints to produce a web-service tool that brings together data collected by volcano citizen science tools from across Europe (including the BGS myVolcano app) and enables new observations of volcanic activity to be uploaded. It is envisaged that this tool will integrate citizen science data and provide a single tool for volcano researchers and enthusiasts in Europe to explore observations across Europe. 

The map interface of the EUROVOLC citizen science web-service tool, developed by BGS Digital. It will be live in December 2020.

The EUROVOLC project has enabled new research, new collaborations between researchers, researchers and stakeholders, and the sharing and development of best or ‘good’ practises between scientists and stakeholders. We’re excited for the final outputs and the ongoing collaborations for new research beyond the funding of this project.

For more information, please visit the EuroVolc website.