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Researchers and communities at risk join forces in volcano study

People living in the shadow of six potentially active volcanoes will take part in a major new study exploring better ways to forecast and cope with future eruptions.

Led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and launched today, the 3 million project will focus on six volcanoes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Volcanologists, social scientists, and international development experts will work closely with the communities directly at risk to improve preparations for and responses to dynamic volcanic activity.

"In this exciting and novel project we will be collaborating with those responsible for local monitoring of volcanoes, with the disaster managers and policy makers in charge of planning for and responding to eruptions, and with ordinary people living and working in the shadow of active volcanoes. The local communities have a vast wealth of knowledge and this will be a real two-way learning process," said project leader Dr Jenni Barclay of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.

This will be the first major UK-led study to integrate the experience of communities at risk with the approaches of natural and social scientists to find new and achievable ways to reduce risk.

'Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas' (STREVA) is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of their 'Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards' program. The unique, five-year interdisciplinary study brings together volcano experts and international development specialists from UEA, the University of Oxford, University of Bristol, University of Leeds, the British Geological Survey and the Overseas Development Institute along with overseas project partners. The team will develop and apply novel risk analyses with the aim of reducing the negative consequences of volcanic activity on people and assets.

"There are 1500 potentially active volcanoes in the world with around 20 erupting at any one time. Because they are located disproportionately in poorer countries, this can make the impact of eruptions all the more devastating and we hope the outcomes of this study will make a real difference to the lives of those affected," said Anna Hicks, a UEA researcher on the project.

The researchers will use the latest volcano monitoring techniques and data including from the new Sentinel satellites due to be launched next year by the European Space Agency - to improve forecasts of future eruptions at six volcanoes: Soufrire Hills (Montserrat); Galeras (Columbia); Tungurahua (Ecuador); Soufrire St Vincent (St Vincent); Cerro Machin (Colombia), and Cotopaxi (Ecuador).

Scientists will learn from the communities devastated by recent eruptions, and will speak with survivors, to build up a comprehensive picture of the common factors that shape how a community deals with and recovers from a volcanic disaster. They hope to help communities that may never have experienced an eruption before cope with any future eruptions by learning from the past, and to produce models that will enable societies to plan and prepare for problems and mitigate the effects of an eruption.

Dr Roger Few, of UEA's School of International Development, will be leading the research work on vulnerability. He said: "We'll focus on the impact of volcanic hazards on the lives and livelihoods of people living in the vicinity of volcanoes, and investigate the factors that shape people's exposure. We'll also look at how differences in capacity affect a community's ability to mitigate, prepare for and recover from hazards."

At the recent Rio +20 summit 'disaster risk reduction' was one of seven topics identified as needing urgent attention. The summit's final agreement - 'The future we want' - calls for the subject to be addressed "with a renewed sense of urgency in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and, as appropriate, to be integrated into policies, plans, programmes and budgets at all levels and considered within relevant future frameworks."

STREVA will work towards the Rio +20 summit agreement, and will have real impacts in real places and significantly advance the fields of volcanic risk analysis and disaster risk reduction.


Contact: Simon Dunford
University of East Anglia

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