Natural Hazards

Francisco Cáceres

I am originally from Chile. I studied my BSc and MSc in Geology in Chile where I was always interested in natural hazards and communication between science and communities. During my masters, I focused on Volcanology and I am currently doing a PhD at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München, Germany, on that topic. My research is focused on experimentally understanding the response of shallow magma chambers under decompression and determine how eruptible they are. I joined the NhET in 2017 in order to collaborate and stay active in this important topic. I contribute to the Blog and capture the team events in videos and photos.

Stromboli: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

Stromboli: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean

In the last months two paroxysmal explosive eruptions took place at Stromboli volcano: the first one, totally unexpected, on 3rd July (Video 1) that sadly cost the life of a person and the second and, currently, last one about three weeks ago, on the 28th August (Video 2).

Today we try to answer a couple of questions about Stromboli and its eruptions. Are these paroxysmal eruptions common or rare at Stromboli volcano? What are the hazards associated with these eruptions in the context of Stromboli’s island?

The volcanic activity at Stromboli

Stromboli, a volcano located on its homonymous island in the South of the Tyrrhenian Sea, is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Already famous for its persistent explosive character during the Roman ages, they named Stromboli ‘the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.

The ordinary eruptive activity of Stromboli is characterised by mild yet spectacular explosions, which eject gas, volcanic ash (i.e. tiny rock particles) and incandescent shreds of magma of decimetric size, i.e. pyroclasts. The latter is particularly capable of putting on a real fireworks display (like in Figure 1), and it is attracting many curious visitors; among them volcanologists, who find Stromboli the perfect natural laboratory where to collect numerous observations.
[Read More]

Let the ash fall, but get ready for its consequences

Let the ash fall, but get ready for its consequences

The past 18th May marked 39 years since one of the most emblematic volcanic eruptions in historic times: the 1980 Mt St Helens explosive eruption. With a death toll of 57 victims, it is the deadliest volcanic event in U.S. history. If that wasn’t enough, it also destroyed hundreds of houses and roads. When we think about explosive volcanic eruptions what commonly comes in our minds about the possible related hazards are impressive Pyroclastic Density Currents (PDC) or Lahars (a glossary below), mainly because of their quick deadly potential, moving ashfall to a secondary role in producing hazards to population.

However, ashfall can be hazardous too even affecting people’s health in the long term and in distal areas from the volcano itself. In today’s post, we will go through how the fall of volcanic ash can be a hazard that must be taken into account by people living in the close (and sometimes not-too-close) neighbourhood of an active volcano. [Read More]

Volcanic eruptions: Sometimes natural spectacles, but other times disasters

In April 2018, an eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii started. The activity continued for months, with impressive lava flows that cut roads and even covered houses and entire neighbourhoods (Figure 1), forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Fortunately, it did not take any life. Some weeks later, on June 3rd,  Fuego volcano, in Guatemala, shocked the international community with a shorter, but certainly more violent, eruption. The eruption of Fuego volcano, probably less known than Kilauea, affected near two millions of people and sadly caused 190 verified deaths and 238 missing persons.


Figure 1. Comparison of satellite images before (left) and after (right) the Kilauea eruption at Leilani Estates subdivision, Hawaii. The area was covered by lava flows. Image credit: USGS.

The main reason why Fuego’s eruption was more deadly than the Kilauea’s one is the type of activity. They are different types of volcanoes with different eruptive dynamics and thus different related hazards. Kilauea is a shield volcano and it is formed by a sequence of eruptions of very low viscous magma. The magma reaches the surface and is generally erupted in an effusive way generating lava flows, really hot mixtures of molten rock, crystals and gas emitted from the volcanic vent, able to reach several meters per second  and kilometers of length, literally looking like rivers (such as in this video). These lava flows can be sometimes accompanied by weak to mild explosive activity in the form of lava fountains. [Read More]

What is coming at the next EGU’s General Assembly?

The next EGU’s General Assembly is taking place in three weeks! We bet you already started planning your program for the week, and that Natural Hazard (NH) sessions are included, and, especially if you are an Early Career Scientist, you have found many sessions and courses targeting your specific needs and interests.

What fits more to your interests: Attend talks and posters, learn and improve skills, or take an active role in a serious game? Or maybe all of them? To get to the point, the Natural hazards Early Career scientist Team (NhET) is organizing five activities during the General Assembly that you can find in the NH division program. Let’s have a look at them!

Monday 9th April

To start with, there will be a session about “Communicating and Managing Natural Risks” (1) on Monday. The aim of this session is to promote studies that improve communication and actions for the mitigation of natural risks, using different methods and tools. The session includes both oral and poster presentations. During the poster session, you will also have the possibility to meet the people currently and actively involved in NhET and get more information about ongoing and future activities! Last year, we expanded the network with many young scientists of various disciplines. This is another reason why we invite you to attend this session and get the chance to be part of this growing network of young scientists!

On the same day, there will be a special event where you can get in touch with people sharing common interests. We organize a “Research Speed Dating” (2) where you can meet other Early Career Scientists with similar interests and share ideas together through 3-10 min speed-dates. If you are interested in participating, we ask you to register at the following link https://goo.gl/forms/L7kDytQdMv7a18aM2; your registration will greatly help us to organize and better match you and your ‘dates’. Take part in this event, and even if you forget to register: you are more than welcome to stop by!

Wednesday 11th April

An interesting course will be held on Wednesday: during the time of the session, you can play an active role as a member of the society in a real case scenario of natural hazard, either as a scientist, a member of the population, the local authority or member of the media. This is the “Serious Games for Natural Hazard” (3). If you would like to attend this game, help us to organize it better by registering at the following link https://goo.gl/forms/Ou0HFxM19rB7MFGZ2. Anyway, the game is open to everyone who wants to attend and all of you are welcome!

Friday 13th April

Remember that the conference last until Friday, and we have interesting activities to convince you remaining at the conference until the very last minute. That day, there will be a workshop about “Open-Source software for simulating stability of slopes” (4) where you can get insights into the use of the open source software OpenLISEM Multi-Hazard model for landslide simulations through a practical demonstration. The software is user-friendly, available for Windows and Linux, and you can download it at the following link https://sourceforge.net/projects/lisem. Also, several test datasets will be made free for download before the workshop (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwWPZu9zWW2ReUJ6UUl3UVctWnM). Just bring your motivation… and the software downloaded if possible!

Finally, but not less important, there will be a PICO session about an emerging topic: the “Hazard effects of climate change on agriculture and forested zones” (5). Here the focus is on the use of remote sensing and modelling for monitoring and evaluating the risks for society and environment in climate-related hazard events. We encourage you to participate, especially because it is an important contemporary topic with high impact on our society and this session can help better understanding the current state of the art on the topic.

As you can see, the activities are varied and we hope we have moved your interest and curiosity to attend one, some or all of them. We are looking forward to seeing you and meeting you at these events!

The Natural Hazards Early Career Scientist Team (NhET).


(1) Methods and Tools for Natural Risk Management and Communications – Innovative ways of delivering information to end users and sharing data among the scientific community – Session NH9.12/AS5.17/CL5.30/ESSI1.9/GI0.4/GMPV6.12/HS11.44/SM3.15/SSS13.66 – Convener: Raffaele Albano | Co-Conveners: Valeria Cigala, Jonathan Rizzi. Monday, 09 Apr, 13:30-15:00 / Room L8 (Orals) and 17:30-19:00 / Hall X1 (Posters).

(2) Speed-dating: Research-match making – Session SC3.19/NH10.3 – Convener: Giulia Roder | Co-Conveners: Raffaele Albano, Luigi Lombardo, Jonathan Rizzi. Monday, 09 Apr, 15:30-17:00 / Room -2.31.

(3) Serious games for Natural Hazards: understand the different roles in natural hazard prevention and management through a simple exercise – Session SC2.18/NH10.2 – Convener: Valeria Cigala | Co-Conveners: Raffaele Albano, Graziella Devoli, Jonathan Rizzi, Giulia Roder. Wednesday, 11 Apr, 10:30-12:00 / Room -2.91.

(4) Open-Source simulations: slope stability and failure in a hydrological catchment model – Session SC1.30/NH10.1 – Convener: Luigi Lombardo | Co-Conveners: Raffaele Albano, Victor Jetten, Cees van Westen, Bastian van den Bout. Friday, 13 Apr, 10:30-12:00 / Room -2.85.

(5) Hazard and risk assessment of climate related impacts on Agricultural and Forested Ecosystems using Remote Sensing and modelling – Session NH6.7/GI2.23/SSS13.57 – Convener: Jonathan Rizzi | Co-Conveners: Mahesh Rao, Luigi Lombardo, Andy Nelson, Dennis Corwin. Friday, 13 Apr, 13:30-15:00 / PICO spot 4.