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Title: Application of geographical information systems to lahar hazard assessment on an active volcanic system
Author: Darnell, Amii Rebecca
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2010
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Lahars (highly dynamic mixtures of volcanic debris and water) have been responsible for some of the most serious volcanic disasters and have killed tens of thousands of people in recent decades. Despite considerable lahar model development in the sciences, many research tools have proved wholly unsuitable for practical application on an active volcanic system where it is difficult to obtain field measurements. In addition, geographic information systems are tools that offer a great potential to explore, model and map hazards, but are currently under-utilised for lahar hazard assessment. This research pioneered a three-tiered approach to lahar hazard assessment on Montserrat, West Indies. Initially, requirements of potential users of lahar information (scientists and decision-makers) were established through interview and evaluated against attainable modelling outputs (given flow type and data availability). Subsequently, a digital elevation model, fit for modelling lahars, was used by a path of steepest descent algorithm and a semi-empirical debris-flow model in the prediction of lahar routes and inundation areas. Limitations of these established geographical information system (GIS) based models, for predicting the behaviour of (relatively under-studied) dilute lahars, were used to inform key parameters for a novel model, also tightly coupled to a GIS, that simulated flow routes based on change in velocity. Importantly, uncertainty in model predictions was assessed through a stochastic simulation of elevation error. Finally, the practical utility of modelling outputs (visualisations) was assessed through mutual feedback with local scientists. The new model adequately replicated past flow routes and gave preliminary predictions for velocities and travel times, thus providing a short-term lahar hazard assessment. Inundation areas were also mapped using the debris-flow model to assist long-term planning. Ultimately, a GIS can support ‘on the ground’ planning decisions, but efficacy is limited by an active volcanic system which can restrict feedback to and from end-users.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available