Monday, 20 July 2015

Volcanoes in Ecuador

Last November I participated in a workshop on volcanic unrest, where we spent several days discussing possible tell tale signs that a volcano might be waking up, and whether or not we can use these signs to know whether it is going to erupt or whether it's just stirring a bit before it's going back to sleep. Turns out that knowing for sure is actually quite difficult!
We also got a chance to do an eruption simulation, where we were fed fake monitoring data and were supposed to make decisions about advice to local authorities and emergency management along the way.
From a science perspective the workshop was interesting, but what I think was most valuable (and is often overlooked) is how it brought together scientists, civil defense and emergency management professionals, monitoring organizations, and local (political) authorities. Communication between these different entities is crucial particularly in crisis situations around natural disasters, but can't function properly if it hasn't been establish long before an actual emergency occurs. Every scientific project with a natural disasters component should include all of these groups!
Last but not least, of course we visited two of the local volcanoes, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua. Neither of them were in eruption at the time, but both of them presented majestic sights.
Below a video from the VUELCO project, that summarizes our experience.