Research

Our research uses remotely sensed data of volcanic emissions to shed light on problems within three themes, which are:

 

                   (1) aircraft hazard mitigation

                   (2) physical volcanogy

                   (3) climate and geoengineering

 

The volcanic emissions group is currently involved in several

exciting projects that address our three overarching research

themes. These projects are funded by a range of funders

including NERC, EPSRC, STFC and the Royal Society and

previous successes including NASA and NSF. Current projects include:

 

NERC, Characterisation of the Near-Field Eyjafjallajökull Volcanic Plume and its Long-range Influence (PI Mobbs, Leeds), co-PI Watson, £3.5M

 

The volcanic plume from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption has caused significant disruption to air transport across Europe. The regulatory response, ensuring aviation safety, depends on dispersion models. The accuracy of the dispersion predictions depend on the intensity of the eruption, on the model representation of the plume dynamics and the physical properties of the ash and gases in the plume. Better characterisation of these processes and properties will require improved understanding of the near-source plume region. This project will bring to bear observations and modelling in order to achieve more accurate and validated dispersion predictions. The investigation will seek to integrate the volcanological and atmospheric science methods in order to initiate a complete system model of the near-field atmospheric processes. This study will integrate new modelling and insights into the dynamics of the volcanic plume and its gravitational equilibration in the stratified atmosphere, effects of meteorological conditions, physical and chemical behaviour of ash particles and gases, physical and chemical in situ measurements, ground-based remote sensing and satellite remote sensing of the plume with very high resolution numerical computational modelling. When integrated with characterisations of the emissions themselves, the research will lead to enhanced predictive capability.

 

The Eyjafjallajökull eruption has now paused. However, all three previous historical eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull were followed by eruptions of the much larger Katla volcano. At least two other volcanic systems in Iceland are 'primed' ready to erupt. This project will ensure that the science and organisational lessons learned from the April/May 2010 response to Eyjafjallajökull are translated fully into preparedness for a further eruption of any other volcano over the coming years.

 

Overall, the project will (a) complete the analysis of atmospheric data from the April/May eruption, (b) prepare for future observations and forecasting and (c) make additional observations if there is another eruption during within the forthcoming few years.

 

NERC, Understanding volcanic degassing, PI (Phillips), co-I Watson, £0.6M, http://gfd.gly.bris.ac.uk/volcgas/

 

This NERC funded project brings together expertise and knowledge from the field studies of actively degassing volcanoes, petrological studies of volatile solubilities in magmatic systems, and fluid mechanical models of magma circulation within volcanoes. The project has several objectives:

 

1) Improved understanding and quantification of the mechanisms of persistent volcanic degassing; including magma chamber and conduit convection, and permeability development in magmas.

2) Numerical models for the prediction of volcanic gas chemistry and flux based on subterranean volcanic processes. This will lead to a quantitative evaluation of the utility of volcanic gas measurements as predictive tools for assessing volcanic hazard.

3) Empirical solubility laws for S and Cl in basalts. These are to be published as a user friendly computer package.

4) Continuation of an extensive dataset of gas chemistry and flux for Masaya volcano, Nicaragua.

 

NERC, Strengthening Reslience in Volcanic Areas, PI Barclay (UEA), co-I Watson, £3.0M

 

STREVA will bring together researchers from universities, research institutes and volcano observatories, to explore methods for reducing the negative consequences of volcanic activity on communities. We will work both with the communities facing volcanic threats, and with those responsible for monitoring, preparing for and responding to those threats. Our main partners are volcano monitoring agencies and observatories in Colombia, the Caribbean and Ecuador, and through them, disaster managers and disaster researchers throughout the region, as well as residents of communities at risk. We will use a number of techniques to build links between the project and the wider community, including workshops, running scenario exercises, and using social media to report our results. Our aim, by working collaboratively across different disciplines, is to develop and apply a risk assessment framework that will generate better plans to reduce the negative consequences of volcanic activity on people and assets.

 

Volcanic risk is a complex problem, which we shall understand by investigating a number of volcanoes, at-risk communities, emergencies and policy responses across the region. These case studies will help us to identify common issues in volcanic disaster risk and ultimately develop regional risk assessment processes. These will be crucial for long-term planning to reduce exposure to volcanic hazards. The countries in which we will work are all middle income and face multiple volcanic threats, often in close proximity to large towns and cities. The main focus will be on six volcanic sites across the Lesser Antilles, Ecuador and Colombia.

 

We will begin the project by reviewing the secondary literature on three well monitored and active volcanoes, to analyse what has already been done to understand and reduce risk to the surrounding population. Through in-depth empirical research in these volcanic areas we shall begin to develop, test and apply our new risk assessment framework and methods for application. We will then take these lessons and apply them to three high-risk volcanoes where monitoring and understanding is less advanced.

 

STREVA's work will generate improvements in:

(i)       methods for forecasting the start of eruptions and changes in activity during eruption;

(ii) prediction of areas at-risk (the "footprint") from different volcanic hazards;

(iii) understanding of the factors that make people and their assets more vulnerable to volcanic threats;

(iv) understanding of institutional constraints and capacities and how to improve incentives for risk reduction

 

EPSRC/NERC/STFC, Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering,  PI Watson, £2.1M, http://www.spice.ac.uk

 

Climate change is a major threat to humankind. Observational evidence for warming of the climate system is very strong, based on increased temperatures, sea level rise and widespread melting of snow and ice. Future projections by climate models indicate substantial changes in future decades, much of which is on a regional scale that will severely impact regions of the world that are already under stress. The SPICE project will investigate the effectiveness of stratospheric particle injection. It will address the three grand challenges in solar radiation management: 1. How much, of what, needs to be injected where into the atmosphere to effectively and safely manage the climate system? 2. How do we deliver it there? 3. What are the likely impacts? These questions are addressed through 3 coordinated and inter-linked work packages:

 

Evaluating candidate particles: What is the 'perfect' particle, that maximizes solar radiation scattering, minimizes the greenhouse effect and the impact on the stratospheric ozone layer and has minimal impact on climate, weather, ecosystems and human health?

 

Delivery Systems: What are the various options for delivery of particles? What is the feasibility of using a tethered-balloon pipe to inject particles and/or gases into the stratosphere in a more cost-effective and sustainable way than alternative methods?

 

Climate and environmental modelling: What are the most effective locations for injection? How can we best use past volcanic analogues? What are the climate and environmental impacts of stratospheric particles?

 

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