VDAP: Trends in Volcano Response and Capacity Building

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Detailed Description

The Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) is a partnership of the USGS and USAID. Now in its 34th year, VDAP performs a combination of in-country and remote responses to volcanic crises. Though forecasting volcanic eruptions remains a challenge, advances in technology and our understanding of volcanoes means we are better equipped to track volcanic unrest and forecast possible impacts. This talk briefly describes a number of key goals for volcanic risk mitigation, in which organizations from all over the world can increasingly work together on volcanic databases and open source tools for data analysis, and on socialization and communications protocols for emergency response. This presentation was given at the 2020 American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:10:19

Location Taken: Vancouver, WA, US


This presentation focuses on the perspective

of the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, or VDAP,

which is a partnership of the USGS and USAID.

Now, in it's 34th year, VDAP does a combination

of in-country and remote response to volcanic crises.

It provides a source of capacity building,

and technology transfer for volcano observatories

and their partners around the world.

Ten years ago, VDAP Project Chief John Pallister,

wrote an abstract for an earlier version

of this session with John Ewert.

John has since retired. And our perspective

this time was written by me and John Ewert,

together with input from a wide number of the VDAP staff.

In 2010, the abstract focused on the evolution

of VDAP since 1986 and stressed that the future

would look to advances in eruption forecasting,

emphasizing not only when an eruption will take place,

but also on how big it could be.

The abstract noted that an international focus

on this problem emphasizing both stochastic

and deterministic methods offered

the best opportunity for advancement.

VDAP also looked forward to the use

of new techniques to increase

the multi-parameter nature of our forecasts.

I'll take a few minutes to discuss some ways

in which VDAP addressed the need for multi-parameter monitoring,

as well as its efforts to lean into eruption forecasting.

Largely, John Pallister was able to increase the scope

of VDAP's activities by adding new staff.

In 2010, we were a group of about 10 or fewer staff

focused on monitoring equipment,

seismology, and with geological expertise,

focused mostly on stratigraphy and petrology.

By 2010, we have almost tripled in size

with most of that growth happening

between 2010 and 2016.

I joined on in 2018 when John retired.

Though description of our growth

runs the risk of being somewhat parochial,

I think our growth mirrors what has happened

globally where volcanology is increasingly

a multi-disciplinary exercise and where eruption

forecasts require a wide diversity of monitoring data,

global analog data, numerical models,

and probabilistic perspectives.

I'll go through a few of the key areas of change,

and then we'll finish with a list of goals that VDAP staff

have highlighted as strategically critical to our future.

First, it's worth mentioning that satellite-based data

is critical for our ability to provide

overseas partners with situational awareness.

Through our access to a complete spectrum

of remote sensing data and by working

with non-VDAP staff at USGS headquarters,

we can track and report on an as-needed basis.

USGS InSAR experts can rapidly order

and process data to contribute to this oversight.

We frequently reach out to colleagues abroad or at NASA as well.

Satellite data also allows us to use

photogrammetry techniques to track

the effusion rates of lava flows and domes,

including where we have concern that collapses

could have devastating consequences.

DEMs are made from photographs taken by drone or helicopter as well,

and our staff teaches courses in these techniques.

Key hires in geochemistry have added expertise

in scanning DOAS and MultiGAS technologies,

which we can provide to our partners around the world,

as well as to assist in data reduction and interpretation.

We are also adept at using miniaturized versions

of these techniques in drones during eruptions

as we've done both at Kīlauea and at Agung.

In terms of seismology,

we've added staff who focus on creating alarms

and integrating software to track earthquake types.

We also have the ability to assist

with the tomography and seismic velocity mapping

that allows improved ability to accurately locate

earthquakes in heterogeneous volcanic terrain.

Similarly, we distribute software and provide training

to model GPS and InSAR data that can be used

to interpret deformation due to earthquakes,

and intrusive episodes. And we are working

on similar software to help interpret tilt data.

Addition of a computer scientist has permitted us

to improve USGS software products like Swarm and Valve,

to set up servers for our colleagues,

to track our own metrics,

and to import new data streams

like lightning and thermal data

for the hundreds of volcanoes that we track.

In addition, we have created a new reporting system

that allows us to better help embassies,

and other USGS agencies with an interest

in the potential effects of volcanic eruptions.

A major effort of VDAP has been to increase

its use of global data.

Through collaborations with WOVOdat,

the Smithsonian, and addition of new staff

in geology and seismology, we've done that.

Our ultimate goal is to provide tools and data globally.

A recent example is the IAVCEI volcanic hazard map database,

where VDAP staff played a key role in moving this forward.

The focus on data and forecasting has allowed us

to expand our use of probability trees,

and to assist our partners in using this method

to categorize, assess, and prioritize volcanic data.

Owing to the much greater availability of commercially

available geophysical instrumentation,

one of the major shifts in our engineering program

is to purchase, configure, and donate

off-the-shelf digital seismometers,

digitizers, radios, and cell modems.

We no longer need to custom build

the analog systems that were key 20 years ago.

This is freed us to incorporate infrasound,

and other sensors to optimize field stations

that are less vulnerable to lightning

and adapt telemetry systems to take advantage

of local telecommunications infrastructure,

if there is some,

where it is technically and economically feasible.

All in all, we've made a lot of progress

on these goals of 10 years ago.

Though forecasting volcanic eruptions remains a challenge,

we are much better equipped to track

volcanic unrest and forecast possible impacts.

Moreover, the increasing amount of monitoring equipment

on the world's volcanoes means

we now do fewer in-country responses.

Over the past five years,

we've done more remote responses

than ones where we've traveled.

We sent equipment to colleagues this year

for the responses at Sangay and Taal.

Clearly, COVID has reinforced this trend.

With the added time and resources though,

we can focus on education, training, and communications,

which has been an expanding part of our program.

Some of these programs are shown in the slide.

For the next 10 years, our staff had outlined

a number of key goals that we feel

should be part of volcanic risk mitigation in 2030.

A lot of these goals relate to volcano data

availability, sharing, and tool development.

We want to increase the links such that

organizations from all over the world

increasingly work together on shared goals

such as volcanic databases and open source tools for data analysis.

We promise our efforts and funds

will be distributed towards fostering

and aiding efforts to create collaborations

such that global groups can work together

to build more sustainable tools and databases

which will have long-term traction.

We'll also increase efforts to collaborate

with global and regional organizations to improve

volcano preparedness and risk reduction programs.

Such collaborations will allow global developments

to be integrated into observatory level decision-making systems.

For example, allowing satellite data

or data from regional or global networks

to be seamlessly fed to the local observatories

to foster their decision-making process

without creating additional sources

of information flow that interfere with observatory

protocols and relationships.

We foresee a need to continue development

of open source tools for data analysis,

visualization, and dissemination to be utilized

even in remote locations with limited bandwidth

and variable levels of staff training.

We see a critical need for accessible volcano information,

and event databases that allow users to improve

unrest analysis to identify analogs,

and to inform probabilistic forecasts.

In order for observatories to benefit

from access to this information,

they will need to increasingly share their data as well.

Now, by an event database,

we're talking about heights of plumes,

changes in alert levels, types of earthquakes,

the changes in thermal activity,

and the other observations that aren't present

in normal data flowing from monitoring equipment.

Desired consequences of this enhanced data availability

are, for example, creating a daily

global volcano report that feeds into databases,

as well as standard terminology and improve

interactions among observatories, VAACs, and academia.

Another clear area for collaboration

is in socialization and communications

protocols for emergency response.

One major focus for VDAP

that was not anticipated in 2010,

but that has grown markedly and is a clear focus

for future development is our binational exchange

program and our work on risk mitigation.

We've run over a dozen such exchanges

with Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile,

focused not on scientists,

but allowing land managers,

emergency responders, and hazard coordinators

from Latin America to share experiences

with their US counterparts,

allowing for major insights by both sides.

Our staff is mostly scientists.

But we increasingly see collaborations

with social scientists and others who can help us

apply our expertise to greater effect.

In addition, we will strive to diversify our staff

to reflect national and global populations,

and to make our products available in multiple languages.

We will continue to support collaborations

among neighboring countries to aid

each other during volcanic crises.

The communication tools that

we've been increasingly utilizing

during the COVID-19 pandemic,

may prove crucial towards these goals.

Thank you very much for your attention.