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€3.5m for research into volcanic unrest

Pico del Teide is part of Tenerife's central volcanic complex and one of VUELCO's target volcanoes. The complex underwent a period of unrest in 2004/5.

Pico del Teide is part of Tenerife's central volcanic complex and one of VUELCO's target volcanoes. The complex underwent a period of unrest in 2004/5. Dr Jo Gottsmann

Press release issued: 5 January 2012

A collaborative research project that could significantly improve our understanding of the processes behind volcanic unrest and our ability to forecast its outcomes has been awarded almost €3.5 million by the European Commission.

The project – 'Volcanic unrest in Europe and Latin America: Phenomenology, eruption precursors, hazard forecast, and risk mitigation (VUELCO)’ – is coordinated by Dr Jo Gottsmann from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences.

In addition to nine other partners from Europe and Latin America, the project involves many Bristol scientists, including Dr Alison Rust, Professor Jon Blundy, Dr Fiona Whitaker and Dr Richard Brooker in the School of Earth Sciences, Dr Tom Scott in the Interface Analysis Centre and Dr Ryerson Christie in the School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies.  The project will bring nearly €900,000 to Bristol.

VUELCO’s international multi-disciplinary consortium will combine fundamental research into the causes and effects of volcanic unrest with uncertainty assessment and probabilistic forecasting to improve communication, decision-making and management during periods of unrest and imminent eruption.

By studying the geophysical, geochemical and geodetic fingerprints of unrest episodes at volcanoes in Italy, Spain, the West Indies, Mexico and Ecuador, the consortium will create global strategies for enhanced monitoring capacity, mechanistic data interpretation and the identification of reliable eruption precursors.

Dr Jo Gottsmann said: “Current knowledge of the causative links between subsurface processes, resulting unrest signals and imminent eruption is wholly inadequate to deal effectively with crises of volcanic unrest.

“VUELCO will improve our understanding of the processes which trigger volcanic unrest and enhance our ability to forecast the outcome of such unrest in the presence of scientific uncertainty.  The project will also improve early-warning and management of evolving volcanic crises and increase our  preparedness to cope with the consequences and potentially adverse outcomes of volcanic unrest.”