Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2015
Globally, more than 800 million people live in areas that have the potential to be affected by volcanic hazards, and this number is growing [Chapter 4]. The need for informed judgements regarding the global extent of potential volcanic hazards and the relative threats is therefore more pressing than ever. There is also an imperative to identify areas of relatively high hazard where studies and risk reduction measures may be best focussed. Various authors have tackled this task at a range of spatial scales, using a variety of techniques. At some well-studied volcanoes, the geological record has been used in combination with numerical modelling to create probabilistic hazard maps of volcanic flows and tephra fall [Chapter 6 and 20]. Such sources of information can be hugely beneficial in land use planning during times of quiescence and in emergency planning during times of unrest. Unfortunately, creating high-resolution probabilistic hazard maps for all volcanoes is not yet feasible. There is therefore a need for a methodology for volcanic hazard assessment that can be applied universally and consistently, which is less data-and computing-intensive. The aim of such an approach is to identify, on some objective overall basis, those volcanoes that pose the greatest danger, in order that more indepth investigations and disaster risk reduction efforts can then be focused on them.
An index-based approach to volcanic hazard assessment involves assigning scores to a series of indicators, which are then combined to give an overall hazard score. Indicators typically include measures of the frequency of eruptions, the relative occurrence of different kinds of eruptions and their related hazards, the footprints of these hazards, and eruption size. Indices are well suited to the problem of volcanic hazard assessment, as they allow the decomposition of the complex system into a suite of volcanic system controls and simple quantitative variables and factors that jointly characterise threat potential.
Ewert (2007) presented an index-based methodology for assessing volcanic threat (the combination of hazard and exposure) in the USA, to permit prioritisation of research, monitoring and mitigation.