About the Project
STREVA (2012-2019) is an innovative interdisciplinary project that worked collaboratively across different disciplines to develop and apply a practical and adaptable means to analyse risk. New knowledge has been used to generate plans that will reduce the negative consequences of volcanic activity on people and assets.
Led by the University of East Anglia (UK), the STREVA project brings together diverse researchers from universities and research institutes from within the UK and from those areas affected directly by volcanic activity.
Understanding volcanic eruptions is never going to actually prevent them from happening.
When volcanoes do erupt they can cause both direct loss of life and indirect loss of livelihoods via the destruction of resources and infrastructure such as crops, buildings and water supplies.
Volcanoes are also notorious for the widespread losses they can cause to business and tourism via disrupted air travel and their long-term climate impacts. The nature of the activity and its impact can also shift over the course of an eruption. Thus, volcanic risk is a complex problem and helping communities to prepare for and to mitigate against changing volcanic activity requires researchers not only to anticipate better that activity but also to understand the role that society, politics and culture plays in creating and eroding resilience to eruptions. To be successful, risk reduction strategies must promote collaboration, integrate diverse knowledge and communicate effectively with populations at risk to allow them to prepare for, cope with and recover from volcanic activity.
The premise of the STREVA project initially was that we needed to begin by characterising the important elements of this dynamic risk, primarily by understanding the key drivers behind previous volcanic emergencies in our study region. Specifically we wanted to understand:
- How we can improve methods to forecast and communicate eruptions and changes in activity during eruptions?
- How to improve predictions of areas at risk (the ‘footprint’) from different volcanic hazards? (Here we focused particularly on lahars, and latterly volcanic ash)
- How to improve understandings of the social, political and institutional drivers that act to make people and their assets more vulnerable to volcanic threats?
- How we can better integrate this knowledge to create incentives and opportunities to reduce volcanic risk?
As a result of this, the project has understood better how InSAR (satellite remote sensing) and seismic data can forecast changes in activity (forecasting eruptions), created new models for lahar flow, ash dispersal and their impacts (hazard impacts), mapped and analysed barriers and opportunities for good volcanic risk governance (analysing vulnerability), and understood how individuals and communities are impacted and can recover from volcanic eruptions (analysing vulnerability).
Critically, we have also worked to improve how this information is communicated (research into action), and how it can be integrated to improve preparedness for future risk (research into action). The interdisciplinary analysis of our three (that became four) study systems was crucial to this. These were Soufriere Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat (1995- present eruption); Tungurahua Volcano in Ecuador (1999-2016 eruption); La Soufriere on the island of St. Vincent (eruptions in 1902-3, 1971-2 and 1979) and Nevado Del Ruiz in Colombia (devastating eruption in 1985, ongoing smaller-scale activity).
The key ‘integrated’ findings that are relevant to allowing populations at risk to prepare for future volcanic activity are that:
- The dynamic nature of volcanic activity is such that ‘risk to livelihoods’ is as important as ‘risk to lives’ in decision-making processes, even in response to an emergency phase. We need to be able to rapidly map changing social and physical landscapes between eruptions and as eruptions progress.
- Ensuring risk analyses and planning share the same physical scale and timescales, relevant to the decision in hand. For example, escalation in warnings and evacuation need to happen with sufficient time for populations to mobilise in the local conditions but long term planning and mitigation needs to place volcanic risk in the context of all other hazards.
- Ownership of risk is important, and should include all groups and individuals likely to be impacted. Thus the analysis of risk and implementation of plans can be as much about the process of knowledge generation and sharing as it is about the final product. For example, in STREVA recognising and listening to local knowledge has significantly improved our scientific understandings of hazard impacts. We found methods like dynamic scenario planning and citizen science to be particularly effective in the context of volcanic eruptions.
We have trialled one or more of these ideas in all of the study sites as well as sharing these ideas around ownership of risk and co-production of knowledge at Sabancaya in Peru and Cotopaxi in Ecuador. We are currently considering how these ideas could be applied elsewhere worldwide.
Who We Are
The STREVA project brings together diverse researchers from universities and research institutes from within the UK. However, a crucial component of the project’s success is our close collaboration with a number of project partners.
These include colleagues from other UK institutions, universities and research programmes based elsewhere, national and local government agencies and research organisations working in our case study locations. Several of our partners have research programmes with complementary missions, encouraging co-production of knowledge across a broad science base. At our case study locations, we collaborate with those responsible for monitoring, preparing for and responding to those threats and through them with the communities facing volcanic threats including disaster managers and policy makers.