Volcano Hazard Maps: Past, Present, and Future

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Throughout most of human existence, we haven't known much about how volcanoes work. Because of their immense power, they have terrified and fascinated us, and remain places of great spiritual importance for many people. The lack of knowledge about volcanoes has sometimes resulted in tragic and deadly disasters. But with the emergence of the science of volcanology and as the science has evolved, so has our ability to map and analyze volcano hazards and their impacts. Volcano hazard maps have become a very important tool for communicating volcanic hazards and mitigating disasters. Joseph Bard, a geographer with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, talks about the past, present, and future of volcano hazard maps in this presentation for the Sno-Isle Libraries’ 2021 Whidbey Reads program.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:40:43

Location Taken: Vancouver, WA, US

Video Credits

This presentation was given as part of the Sno-Isle Libraries’ 2021 Whidbey Reads program. Video edited by Liz Westby.


Hi. Well, good afternoon and thank you so much for inviting

me here today to speak. My name is Joseph Bard.

I'm a geographer with the US Geological Survey,

Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.

A really important element of my work as a geographer is making maps,

and so it's a real privilege to be able to have the chance to come here

today and talk to you about the past,

present, and future volcano hazard maps.

Before we really get into the talk,

I do want to say that in this talk I will show

three images of cities that were devastated by eruptions.

While I will not be showing any images of any injured people,

I just wanted to let you know that in this talk,

I will speak about some very tragic events in which many people did lose their lives,

so just be aware of that, please.

Throughout most of human existence,

we really haven't known anything about

how volcanoes work and because of their immense power,

they have terrified us, they have fascinated us,

and they really remain places of

great spiritual importance for many people all around the world.

This lack of knowledge about volcanoes has

sometimes resulted in really tragic and deadly disasters.

For example, possibly the most famous volcano disaster in history,

the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD that destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii,

near modern-day Naples, Italy.

Before the eruption of Vesuvius,

it had literally been quiet for

hundreds of years and the volcano was just considered extinct.

The volcano was covered with vegetation and so the eruption was completely unexpected.

But within moments after the eruption,

the city was so completely covered by hot volcanic ash

that the ruins were not uncovered for another 1,700 years.

It's only really been the last approximately 100 years or so,

with the emergence of the science of volcanology that we've

really begun to understand how volcanoes work.

As the science has evolved,

so has our ability to map and analyze volcano hazards and their impacts.

Volcano hazard maps are a really super important tool for us for

communicating about volcanic hazards and for mitigating disasters.

In the US, there are 161 active volcanoes.

This includes US territories,

including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in

the Western Pacific and American Samoa in the South Pacific.

We consider a volcano to be active if it has erupted since the end of the last Ice Age,

which is around 12,000 -15,000 years ago depending on where you are.

Or volcano monitoring equipment positioned on the volcanoes can

actually detect signs of an active magmatic system in a volcano.

So 55 of these volcanoes in the United States

are considered very high threat or high threat.

This is based on the potential for an eruption

to impact people or important societal systems.

Today, the USGS Volcano Hazards Program operates five volcano observatories.

There's the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in Hilo.

There's the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage and in Fairbanks.

There's the California Volcano Observatory down in the Bay Area.

There's the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory,

and as well as the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver,

Washington, where I work.

The mission of the USGS Volcano Hazards Program is to enhance public safety and minimize

social and economic disruption from

volcanoes through the delivery of effective forecasts,

warnings, and information about volcano hazards based

on scientific understanding of volcanic processes.

At CVO, where I work,

it was formally established in 1982,

two years exactly after the famous eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

It was recognized that with all the active volcanoes that there are in the Cascades,

it was a really good idea to have

a permanent volcano observatory facility in the Pacific Northwest.

At the Cascades Volcano Observatory, or CVO,

there's really four strategic elements that guide our work.

The first is volcano monitoring,

then there's volcano hazard assessments.

There's research on active volcanism,

and the last piece is really hazard communication with the public and with authorities.

The CVO is responsible for monitoring

the volcanoes in Washington and in Oregon, and as well as Idaho.

We conduct research on many aspects of active volcanism and respond

to volcanic disasters locally, as well as abroad.

A very important aspect of our work is

providing information to other government agencies,

to land-use planners, to emergency responders,

the news media, to schools,

and to the general public.

Map products are a really important tool for communicating about where

these areas are that might be impacted

by eruptions and what could happen during an eruption.

Let's take a look at some of these volcano hazards.

Let's first start with a mental imagery and word association exercise.

Hold in your mind the very first image that pops into your head when you see this phrase,

volcano hazard, what does that look like?

Does it look possibly like this,

lava erupting out of Kīlauea Volcano?

Or perhaps like this,

a big pyroclastic flow running down the side of Mount

Pinatubo in 1991 in the Philippines?

Or for Washington locals, maybe something a little more like

this where you have a big ash cloud blotting out

the sky after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Volcanic eruptions are very complex and

the hazards that are associated with volcanoes can take many forms.

For example, in this map, which is a simplified hazard map of Mount Rainier,

which we'll see again in the future,

this area I'm highlighting here with the arrow is the near vent hazard zone and

the vent in the volcano is the source of

an eruption and a place where rock particles or ash,

or gas, or lava,

all come out of the ground.

Lava flows are one type of near-vent hazard.

This image is a lava flow of Kīlauea volcano in 2018.

Now, most Cascades volcanoes do not produce very fluid lava,

just like we're seeing here.

However, there are exceptions and one exception is the Newberry Volcano,

which is just South of Bend, Oregon.

Most lava flows in the Cascades are unlikely to reach

communities because not a lot of people live right up close to the volcano.

However, the heat from the volcanoes can

definitely start forest fires in these forested volcanoes.

Pyroclastic flows, are another near-event hazard.

Pyroclastic flows are super hot,

super fast-flowing torrents of hot rock,

and ash, and gas.

Another near-event hazard is ballistic blocks,

explosions the volcano can hurl rocks,

we call ballistic blocks,

at speeds up to 500 miles an hour.

So even a small rock traveling at that speed could definitely kill or injure somebody.

The thing really to know about near-event hazards

including pyroclastic flows, lava flows,

and ballistic projectiles is that they will burn,

bury, or crush almost anything that they encounter.

Luckily though, the formula to be safe from near-event hazards is quite simple.

Just stay away from the volcano if it is erupting or if it's in a period of unrest.

Along these river valleys that the arrows are pointing to,

these are lahar hazard zones.

Now, lahars are fast-flowing slurries of mud, water, rocks,

and debris that can travel down river valleys,

excuse me, but begin on the slopes of volcanoes.

Lahars are a very important hazard to be aware of in the Cascades.

Large lahars can travel many tens of miles away from

the volcanoes and affect communities very far downstream.

Lahars can occur in several ways.

For example, on ice and snow-covered volcanoes like we have here in the Cascades.

During an eruption, the hot rocks and gas coming out

of the volcano can melt the ice and just create

a massive deluge of water that sweeps down

the volcano and sweeps up rocks and debris and whatever else is in its path.

Lahars can also be caused by massive scaled slope failures on the side of the volcano,

that moves the landslide of sorts that essentially

liquefies as it starts to break up and run down the volcano.

Lahars can destroy or bury almost anything in their path as well.

Their impacts also often last long after the eruption is over.

The sediment that is deposited in rivers can increase

the bed height and increase flooding.

The sediment can also impact water quality and

fish habitat for years to decades after an eruption.

This image, you can see the mud line that's left on

the trees after a lahar swept through this area from the May 18th, 1980 eruption.

The person is circled on the river bank for scale just to give you

a sense of just how high this lahar was as it swept through this area.

Lahars pose the biggest threat to people here in the Cascades

and Rainier is definitely the most concerning volcano.

This is because many people live alongside rivers where

lahars have flowed in the past and definitely could flow again in the future.

Now, to be safe from a lahar,

lahars large enough to reach densely populated areas is,

really, the essential life-saving strategy is just evacuation in the event of a lahar.

Evacuating from valley floors to higher ground.

Volcanic ash and tephra are another hazard.

Volcanic ash and tephra are particles of

volcanic rock that are produced during explosive eruptions.

When an eruption occurs, areas downwind of the volcano are affected by ash hazards.

Now, large particles of ash and tephra will fall within a few miles of the volcano or

really fine particles can get suspended in

the atmosphere and travel hundreds to even thousands of miles downwind.

Now, larger eruptions produce

more ash and the stronger winds will carry the ash further downwind.

Ash can be very irritating to the eyes and sinuses of people and animals,

and make it really difficult for animals to forage and find drinking water.

Ash reduces visibility and it's incredibly abrasive.

It's just little chunks of rocks, so it can really easily damaged machinery

and aircraft in flight are especially susceptible.

Electrical grids and water supplies are also vulnerable to ash fall.

When ash is falling, the best plan is to shelter in

place indoors and try to keep ash outside,

and try to minimize driving as much as possible.

We don't really show ash in this map and that's because basically

anywhere on this map could be affected by ash of an eruption,

depending on the size of the eruption and the direction the wind is blowing.

Also not just from this volcano,

but from other volcanoes nearby.

While this is not a complete list of volcano hazards,

these are the volcano hazards that are most often the subject of hazard maps.

Speaking of maps, let's move on to talking about volcano hazard maps of

the past and how science of

volcanology and the invention of hazard maps has revealed unknown volcano hazards.

I really want to thank my colleague John Ewert for sharing a bunch of the work that he

put together on this subject with me, to allow me

to borrow this to put in my presentation, so thanks so much, John.

Today, a Google search on volcanic hazard maps will turn up dozens of maps,

but volcano hazard maps have not always been so ubiquitous.

In the early 20th century,

volcanology began to emerge as a modern science.

Volcanology, really big disasters propelling the science forward in big leaps.

One example of one of these terrible disasters is what happened in 1902

in the eruption of Mount Pelée on the island of Martinique and the French West Indies.

As USGS scientist Rick Hoblitt wrote,

"A ground-hugging cloud of incandescent lava particles suspended by

a searing turbulent gas is moved at

hurricane speed down the southwest flank of the volcano,

reaching St. Pierre at 8:02 AM.

Escape from the city was virtually impossible."

Almost everyone within the city

proper, about 26,000 people, were killed.

You can see a before and after photo here.

This phenomenon that destroyed St. Pierre was a pyroclastic flow.

In 1902, this was completely unknown to science.

But since then, it has definitely been witnessed

at many other volcanoes around the world,

including Mount St. Helens in 1980.

In the early years, the emerging science of volcanology was really devoted to accurately

predicting eruptions and developing mitigation strategies.

This is a map from 1930 and it's Merapi Volcano in Indonesia.

It's one of really the earliest volcano hazard maps we see.

In 1919, 5,000 people were killed by an eruption of a volcano called Kelud,

which really motivated the Indonesian government to produce

the first hazard maps for frequently active volcanoes.

Hazard zones on this and other similar maps in this series showed

the topography of the volcano and also areas that have been

impacted during recently observed observations.

This is an important aspect of these maps.

These first early maps really only show what has happened in

the recent past based on firsthand observation.

Hazard maps that begin to forecast

potentially impacted areas don't even really emerge until in the 1960s.

This is the map of Soufrière de Guadeloupe Volcano on the Island of Basse-Terre in

the French West Indies not far from Martinique or Mount Pelée,

the disaster that destroyed the city of St. Pierre on Martinique.

What this map shows is that the areas of the island are susceptible to pyroclastic flows.

If the volcano in this island erupted,

and it was similar to the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.

It was really significant because it offers a forecast based on

the premise of a specific event occurring in the future,

and so it's a scenario-based map or conditional hazard map.

It really explores if-this-then-that type scenario.

In 1959, the United Nations asked

the International Association of Volcanology to

determine the parameters that are really appropriate for volcano monitoring,

and for protection of lives and property threatened by eruptions.

One of the key recommendations was that the science of volcanology

and volcano observatories should work towards making eruption forecasting reliable,

and in notify governments and regions regarded as is

dangerous that are in the neighborhood of volcanoes having

considered all the various possibilities.

Really what they're doing here is implying that the need to

produce really comprehensive volcano hazard maps.

These maps from 1964 show the Auckland Volcanic Field in New Zealand,

and they are significant because they pioneer a use

of relatively new scientific technique at this point,

which was radiocarbon dating.

This was used to complement traditional field geology to establish a chronology,

and to allow for the estimation and

quantitative probabilities of future eruptions in its area.

Let's turn back to the United States now,

because at this time, at the same time, in

the '60s there was a really revolutionary work taking

place in Washington that

would change the course of volcanology and volcano hazard maps forever.

The story starts in this area

right here just a little bit to the northwest of Mount Rainier.

At this time large volcanoes like Mount Rainier

were viewed by science to be essentially relics of the past and no longer active.

Foreshadowing there for you.

Let me introduce you now to Dwight "Rocky" Crandell.

In 1953, he was a USGS geologist in the Engineering Geology Division based in Denver,

and he was assigned to make a geologic map of the area near Lake Tapps in Washington.

He was not there for the purpose of looking at volcanoes specifically.

On the left you're seeing the completed geologic map that he was there to make,

it was published in 1963.

But in his field of investigations,

Crandell was reexamining a layer of earth that was a combination of sand and silt and

rocks arranged from small pebbles to boulders eight feet in diameter,

and these are the salmon-colored areas of the map,

where the arrows are pointing to right here.

This area had first been mapped in 1899,

and the salmon-colored places on the map where I'm

showing right now were reckoned actually to be

related to the glaciers of the last ice age.

This was definitely a reasonable interpretation for the time given that

the Puget Sound area and the surrounding lowlands

are really dominated by post-glacial landforms.

But Crandell saw two things that did not fit with the glacial explanation,

and the first was that there was wood particles including things,

like whole logs mixed in with all these rocks.

This was curious because trees do not grow on glaciers,

and so it's hard to imagine how the trees could have gotten in there.

The second piece though, was that the deposit contained clay-sized particles.

Now clay is actually a geologic size classification for particles that are very small.

In fact, they have to be less than 0.002 millimeters to be considered clay.

Now clay particles are only created when rocks are dissolved by chemicals,

like hot acidic fluids,

and they are definitely too small to be created by the forces of friction even in

massive glaciers like the size of those in the last ice age.

Crandell followed this deposit that he had found all the way

upriver all the way up to Steamboat Prow near Camp Schurman on the Rainier.

Mount Rainier, like many active volcanoes, has an active hydrothermal system,

and it's this acidic super-heated fluids within

this hydrothermal system that are slowly weakening the rocks from within.

They create the conditions for large sections of

the volcano to really break apart and fail and become lahars.

Well, Crandell realizes that the deposit he has found was actually a massive lahar.

He renamed it the Osceola Mudflow and is

the largest such lahar that has ever been discovered.

Today the Osceola Mudflow can be found extending

20 miles away from the volcano and spread across

an area that is in some places after 10 miles wide.

In some places, the deposit is 350 feet thick.

This discovery proved that Rainier was and still definitely is today

very much an active volcano and definitely not a

relic of the past - that was the popular scientific opinion of the day.

I've said the word lahar a number of times,

but before you go any further I want to pause to show you

a short video of a lahar to give you a sense of what they look like,

and then we'll return to our story.

This is a very small lahar at Semeru Volcano in Indonesia,

and it's many times smaller than

the lahars that would threatened populations around Mount Rainier.

But I still think this video is useful for

demonstrating just how powerful these events can be even really small

ones, so keep an eye out at the end,

this flow moves some pretty sizable boulders

and then after that we'll get back to our story.

Crandell's discovery of the Osceola Mudflow led

to further investigations around Mount Rainier,

and so I wanted to introduce you to another key figure in the story as part of

those investigations and that's a USGS geologist named Donal Mullineaux.

Don Mullineaux actually incidentally is a Washington local.

He grew up in Camas just east of Vancouver,

Washington and did his PhD work at UW.

Crandell and Mullineaux first met in 1953,

and their collaborations in the 60s and 70s,

mapping the Cascades Volcanoes would

define the future of volcano hazard assessments and volcano hazard maps.

For example, in 1967 Crandell and Mullineaux authored

the very first USGS volcano hazard assessment entitled

"Volcano Hazards at Mount Rainier, Washington."

One of the significant findings was that there was evidence that Rainier had actually

produced many large lahars in the past, including the Osceola Mudflow,

and in this dotted area,

and another one called the Electron Mudflow which is

the most recent large lahar that came down the Puyallup Valley.

However, this report does not have a map it only features

this small graphic that was an insert on one of the pages in the report.

Today we know that Rainier has produced a lahar large enough to reach

currently populated areas about once every 500-1000 years.

Six years later, Crandell and Mullineaux made

the first volcano hazards map of Mount Rainier,

and really the world's first modern volcano hazard map.

It shows all of the areas that could be affected by potential eruptions,

and thus it is an unconditional hazard map.

This results from a very detailed geologic work and analysis,

really the entire range of the past erupted behavior of the volcano.

Today nearly all volcano hazard maps in the world endeavor to follow this approach.

During that investigation, Crandell and Mullineaux kept finding ash layers

from another volcano between the layers of ash from Rainier.

Does anyone have any guesses of what volcano this might be?

Well, if you guessed Mount St. Helens you get a 100 percent on the mid-talk quiz,

and great job, gold star.

For the benefit of hindsight, we definitely know why.

This graphic shows the eruptions in the Cascades for

each volcano over the past 4,000 years based on the geologic record,

and it's pretty clear that Mount St. Helens is

definitely the most active volcano in the Cascades.

Crandell and Mullineaux's really rigorous geologic fieldwork

led to another publication in

1978 called "Potential Hazards from

Future Eruptions of Mount St. Helens Volcano, Washington."

This is the first example of

a totally modern volcano hazard assessment as a report as well as the hazard map.

There's really one line towards the end of this paper

which really stands out. It reads, "Mount

St. Helens' behavior pattern suggest that

the current quiet interval will not last as long as 1,000 years.

Instead, an eruption is more likely to occur in the next 100 years,

and perhaps even before the end of the century."

Well, as it turns out Crandell and Mullineaux knew what they're talking about

because two years later is the famous eruption of Mount St. Helens, in 1980.

The hazards map that Crandell and Mullineaux had created was

an absolutely essential tool for communicating about the hazards of that eruption.

Really today volcano hazard maps such

as these continue to be the foundation for preparedness efforts,

for prioritizing volcano monitoring,

and for responding to volcanic unrest and eruptions around the world.

To really summarize these stories of Crandell and Mullineaux's work.

Their work on volcano hazards rose up organically while they were

just making the standard US surficial geology maps.

Initially, they received a lot of push back from the community about their findings,

about the volcanoes, but their homework was the proof.

Eventually, with weight of their evidence they're able to convince people,

and a colleague, John Ewert says,

"Evidence is evidence, and that's how science works." I love that.

I want to close the section with the final thought about the science of volcanology,

and how it came from this idea of showing simple maps of first-hand observations of

recent events to being a really essential tools for

holistic understanding of the complete hazard landscape at a volcano.

Our foundational premise of the science of geology is this idea of

this principle of uniformitarianism, which is the assumption,

the same natural laws and processes that operate in

our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past.

Therefore, by studying the present is the key that unlocks the past.

The genius though of Crandell and Mullineaux's work is that they actually

inverted this premise and proved that by studying

the evidence of past eruptions that they can

reveal what is most likely to occur again in the future.

In so doing they created basically the central tenet of modern volcanology,

and that is, the past is the key to the future.

That takes us to hazard maps of the present.

In the present, the hazard maps are propelled forward by

really two major eruptions and also the age of the computer.

This is building on the pioneering work of Crandell and Mullineaux.

Let's start with the eruptions first.

The first is the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Absolutely one of the most important eruptions in the history of volcanology.

We're turning to a line I mentioned earlier that volcanology

takes really large steps forward in big eruptions.

The place where Mount St. Helens erupted and also

the moment in time in which it erupted are huge factors for this.

The US is a prosperous country,

Mount St. Helens is right near

two major US cities and the eruption occurred first thing in the morning,

at broad daylight, on a clear day in May which is not a given for sure,

this is the Northwest.

Also, the moment in technology when it happened

before the advent of personal computers; this is a huge deal.

Of course, the events that transpired at Mount St. Helens

itself really would change our understanding of volcanoes forever.

My colleagues have actually given some talks

about Mount St. Helens that are part of this Whidbey Reads series,

that we hosted on the Cascades Volcano Observatory website including with this one too.

Please check those out if you're interested in

more detailed story about the Mount St. Helens eruption.

The second eruption occurred in Colombia in 1985.

This image shows the remains of the town in Armero that was devastated by a lahar.

The town was essentially buried and 25,000 people died after

a relatively small eruption of a volcano called Nevado del Ruiz.

This was really significant here in the United States because Nevado del Ruiz and

Mount Rainier actually share a lot of really important similarities.

They're both really big, tall mountains,

with lots of ice and snow on top,

has large populations that live in the areas where

lahars are known to have occurred. At Mount Rainier,

evidences of lahars is in the geologic record but

at Nevado del Ruiz there have actually been two previous lahars in historic times.

Even though people think this disaster occurred,

despite the fact that people actually had

witnessed these lahars and actually even written about it.

The thing that's really exceptionally tragic about

the Armero situation is it was entirely preventable.

The eruption was not a surprise nor was the fact that that it could produce a lahar.

It was really caused entirely by just a failure to act.

A lot of the work that we do with USGS,

in the Volcano Hazards Program, is really dedicated to making sure that another tragedy,

such as what happened at

Armero never happens again here in the United States or abroad.

Starting in the 1990s,

creating hazard assessments and maps for all dangerous volcanoes,

the United States really became a priority.

I'm going to show you the dates in which

the hazard assessments were completed for all of the volcanoes in the Cascades.

All these are really built on

the same technique that was pioneered by Crandell and Mullineaux.

These efforts that we included, an expansion of some techniques.

This on the left here were saying is the inclusion of a probabilistic map of ash hazards,

here it's showing the regional scale for the entire Cascades.

Also on the right here,

this map begins to forward the concept of these low-probability,

high-consequence events,

these maximum credible events which are really worst-case scenarios.

These are really important for informing land use plans and for

emergency managers that would like to plan for this type of worst-case scenario.

The imprint of modern computing is absolutely everywhere in our daily lives.

Hazard mapping desktop computers and commercially available mapping software,

really has changed everything.

Among the most impactful things on mapping the earth has been

a development of a data format called the digital elevation model or DEM.

What is a DEM, you might ask?

Well, you're actually looking at one right now.

When you think of a DEM, it's really just a photograph of the earth's surface.

But whereas, a typical digital photograph stores information about color,

a DEM actually stores elevation values for places on

Earth and it can be uploaded into mapping software and use to visualize the earth.

You might have known that,

that jellyfish-shaped image is actually an aerial view of Mount St. Helens.

This DEM was produced using a technique called lidar,

in which an instrument is mounted onto a plane and

flies over area of interest and scans the ground with a laser.

We'll return to this idea in a little bit later.

Well, DEMs do a fantastic job of displaying terrain,

they have many more uses beyond just visualization.

The lahar disaster really greatly motivated people in

the volcano science community to better understand lahar hazards.

The DEM allowed USGS scientists to develop a computer program called the

LAHARZ which estimates the areas that could be potentially impacted from a lahar.

If a lahar of a certain size occurred at a given volcano really anywhere in the world.

This thing was a huge breakthrough,

allowed for really detailed scenarios to be

constructed about lahars given certain conditions.

This far we've discussed the concept of this unconditional hazard map.

Those pioneered by Crandell and Mullineaux. It combines all the volcanic processes,

all potentially impacted places and really it's aimed at long range land use planning.

These are what we call the official Hazard Maps of USGS,

the capital H Hazard Maps.

But early on it was recognized that to supplement the unconditional maps,

we would also need things like conditional hazard maps,

which really focus on either one process,

maybe a subset of impacted places,

or examine a scenario.

These are more useful for short-term planning or coordination.

This is what we saw start to be pioneered in

that 1960 map of the Soufrière de Guadalupe Volcano.

LAHARZ is a tool for constructing these conditional maps.

This is an example of an application of LAHARZ to construct

a conditional map of lahar hazards that

my colleagues and I worked on at the request of the community of Trout Lake.

It's just at the foot of Mount Adams.

So to keep track of where we are,

we can see Rainier and we can see Mount St. Helens,

and this one right here is Mount Adams. Back to the map.

You might recognize something different about this map than some other maps we've seen.

The map on the left, this is

a standard map view where every point in the map is viewed from directly above.

Whereas on the right, we use a perspective view to try to improve

the reader's ability to understand the relationship

between hazards and where people live.

Recent research on volcano hazard maps has shown that

this use of these prospective views are actually really

advantageous for helping the audiences to

interpret terrain and select better evacuation routes.

As I mentioned earlier, evacuation is really

a critical life-saving action for mitigating the threat of lahars,

and it's definitely the case here.

One thing I want to point out on this map that there's a disclaimer that says,

this is not a hazard map and that's a curious distinction and that's

because this is a map for possible volcano hazards.

But the reason for this distinction is something I

just mentioned a little earlier that we

reserve the term hazard map for the unconditional hazard maps which show all hazards,

and we do this to avoid this confusion about which one is THE hazard map.

for a volcano. Alone,

a conditional map would really under-represent

the breadth of potential volcanic hazards at volcanoes,

so it's really important to draw that distinction and really to ensure

that planners know which is the source

for the best and most complete suite of information about

volcano hazards and for the long-term, land use planning.

Let's take a step forward into the future of hazard maps.

Future of hazard maps: bigger, better, faster.

To help me envision what would be possible in the future,

I actually interviewed three colleagues and ask them the question,

"what is the future of hazard maps?"

I want to say, thanks again to John Ewert and also thank

Dave Ramsey and Heather Wright for contributing some of their ideas.

Two things emerge from these conversations.

The first was that new technology will enable us to do what

we're already doing now but better and faster.

The second is it really, that evolving our communication strategies,

really about evolving our communication strategies

to better reach people who are at risk of volcano hazards.

First, I want to talk about the technology piece and how that

can enable us to do things we're already doing but better and faster.

To begin, I want to share a little story about

the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai'i.

Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai'i is one of the most active volcanoes in the world,

so much so that it's the highest threat volcano in the US.

Around 2018, the volcano had actually been erupting continuously for 35 years.

However, on May 5, 2018, the volcano entered a new phase of eruptive activity.

Over the next three months, 14 square miles of the island

would be covered in new lava and over 700 homes would be destroyed.

In our discussion,

we've talked about unconditional maps.

We've talked about conditional maps,

but I want to introduce another type of map and that's

the situational or event-driven map.

This is the kind we use in eruption responses.

In late May of 2018, I was asked to join the eruption response and to help make maps

to answer probably one of

the most important questions on the island during this eruption,

and that is, where is the lava?

This is an example of a map we produced on June 2nd,

2018 that was intended for the public.

During the eruption response,

we were making two or three new maps each day to provide situational awareness for

decision-makers, for the media and for the public to

keep everybody abreast of the situation.

Really, the biggest challenge we faced in making maps is that it's actually,

a pretty labor-intensive process to track lava flows and to

transform that data into maps and then get them in the hands of decision-makers.

If you're wondering, well, how is it that we do track lava flows?

Well, then stick around for the next slide because I'm about to show you.

For making these maps, there are really three key data sources.

The first was satellites.

Satellites are fantastic, they're

You get huge area of coverage from satellites,

but they only crossed this area of Hawai'i twice per day.

You'll only get two snapshots per day.

Also, there's a lag time between when the satellite actually

collects the data and when you can actually put it into mapping software.

The next thing we're doing is helicopter overflights,

including using capturing thermal imagery in the helicopter overflights,

which is also awesome again,

but post-processing takes time to bring it into the mapping software.

You also can't fly everywhere

you'd like to fly in a helicopter,

and it can take really long time to cover large areas.

Also, when we're in helicopters,

we're taking cell phone photos,

which were cool, we could 

text those back immediately when we landed to our colleagues who were making maps.

But it still took time to compare the photos we'd just taken to

previous photos and then sketch in the lines to draw these maps.

Another source of data was UAS's or [unoccupied aircraft] systems,

aka "drones," which are also great,

but they do have a limited range,

and the images they capture also require post-processing to be added into mapping software.

I think maybe you're getting the idea that time is a big factor here.

The future, for better or for worse,

I think eventually we'll have full Earth coverage of Wi-Fi.

That could actually pretty enable

some pretty amazing things in regard to responding to eruptions,

especially that the real-time transmission of data from the field

back into the people who are making maps, for instance,

this could reduce post-processing time or enable,

especially if it was uploaded immediately to

the Cloud and maybe be processed on the fly.

Also, you could possibly even start to enable

real-time mapping using fancy feature extraction algorithms,

which would be pretty fantastic.

Like global Wi-Fi, in the future,

we'll also have more satellites and larger constellations of

satellites that can enable some really amazing capabilities.

The image we're seeing here is the eastern part of

the Kīlauea Volcano and the image is called a differential interferogram.

What you need to know about it is it's

a comparison of two measurements of the earth's surface.

They're taken by a satellite-based radar about two weeks apart.

In the center, you can probably notice there's a rainbow bullseye pattern.

What that shows is that the uplift is caused by magma,

having moved into the area beneath the surface causing the surface to lift up.

This was happening prior to the eruption of Kīlauea.

Imagine a constellation of satellites with these radar instruments

in them positioned over this area taking near-constant measurements.

In certain situations, at certain volcanoes,

we might almost be able to map

magma movement underground at volcanoes in near real-time,

which would be unbelievable.

This idea can also be extended to satellites that are

capturing and acquiring color imagery or thermal imagery.

We might be able to speed up making maps

of processes that are actually happening on the ground at that moment.

It also just combine that with global Wi-Fi,

we could maybe potentially pipe maps directly into

mobile devices as they were being captured by satellites.

That would be a huge boon for supporting things like eruption responses.

Earlier, I said that we were making

2-3 maps per day and in conversations with my colleagues,

I learned that what we were doing in 2018 probably,

would have been totally impossible,

maybe even just a decade before that.

Many things were really labor-intensive during

the eruption response at Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Well, today nearly all of that stuff is automated.

I think that we can expect that before we know it,

that same transition will occur and the things

that take us a long time right now all be automated,

and so everything will just be much faster.

Moving on here. Like I said,

we returned to talking about DEMs.

Earlier, we saw this image that was created using a technique called lidar. It uses

an airborne laser scanner to

capture a very high-resolution image of the surface of the earth.

With lidar DEMs, we use mapping software to reveal

all kinds of features that are otherwise invisible. To illustrate the point,

I want to show you a non-volcano example from

our friends at the Washington Geological Survey.

One of the most powerful aspects of lidar is that we can use the processing software to

basically remove the vegetation and see

what the bare earth surface would look like with the vegetation removed.

In an aerial view here, all we can see is the trees.

But with lidar removing the trees,

we can see that this river valley actually has

a history of landslides along the river valley's margins.

The USGS geologists are already using lidar,

at Crater Lake to reveal landforms related to

the caldera-forming eruption that actually formed Crater Lake.

These are formally previously unknown.

Well, what's actually really fascinating about this is

that people who are really talented geologists who had been

working in this area for decades before the advent of

lidar were unable to see these features because of the forest.

Looking forward to 2023,

the USGS is actually planning to have

the entire continental United States scanned by lidar.

Who knows what we'll find next.

The final thing I want to talk about is communication and return to

the simplified hazard map that was made in partnership with Mount Rainier in 2014.

This map uses volcano hazard zones from the unconditional hazard map,

but the visualization was developed using a communication technique

borrowed from public health called a single overriding communication objective.

The concept is really, what is the one key message

about volcano hazards that you want visitors to take away from the park?

That messages is that pyroclastic flows and lava flows occur immediately,

in areas immediately adjacent to the volcano.

While lahars follow river valleys and are far-traveled from a volcano.

This is just really some fundamental information about volcano hazards.

This representation is actually proved to be really popular,

and partially because I think it's really intuitive

and since then we've replicated it for all volcanoes in the Cascades.

Building on the success of these maps,

working on new ways to reach our audiences in the future.

Another frontier for us right now is

the application of user-centered design about making.

User-centered design is an iterative design process in which

designers focus on users and their needs at each phase of the design process.

It starts with this discovery phase,

where we gather an understanding of who our users are,

and then this ideation phase where we identify user requirements.

We can prototype solutions and finally,

we can verify the designs meet the needs of our users.

It's a practice that's used extensively in

many industries basically to develop every cool app on your phone.

But it's really new to the development of volcano hazard maps.

We said at the top of an introduction,

I'm currently leading a project to evaluate the map that we just saw,

as well as we're looking towards applying this process to development of

future products. The last thing I want to

talk about is this idea of being more inclusive with volcano science.

This is a poster that my colleagues and I just finished that focuses on the relationship

between the lands of tribal nations and volcano hazards in the Cascades.

One of the really interesting areas forward is how we

can grow the way that we talk about volcanoes and

volcanic processes by recognizing forms

of traditional knowledge, including oral traditions.

People have been living alongside these volcanoes since time immemorial.

To be an organization that is really a resource for all communities,

to be resilient to volcano hazards will require us to

acknowledge the value of traditional forms of knowledge in parallel with scientific research.

I think that the incorporation of new voices into the world of

volcano hazard work is actually very exciting.

But throughout most of human existence,

people haven't really learned anything about how volcanoes work.

Unfortunately, because of this,

many people have died tragically in volcanic disasters.

All of these disasters have motivated the science and volcanology forward,

and the evolution of technology,

and the ability to visualize volcano hazards and forecast

eruptions has made it really safer for us to coexist with volcanoes.

Volcanoes are fantastic and amazing places,

and they still have many secrets yet to be uncovered.

With that, I'll say,

thank you so much for listening.

I hope that you did enjoy the talk,

and I hope you learned a little something about volcano hazards,

in the past, present, and future.

If you want to learn more,

please visit the USGS volcanoes website.

Yeah, thanks again. I appreciate you being here.