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Unit information: Natural Hazards in Central America in 2015/16

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Unit name Natural Hazards in Central America
Unit code EASCM1008
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Matthew Watson
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


Natural Hazards in Central America is a field-based course offered to students on the MSc in Volcanology. Students are introduced, in situ, to volcanic hazards including lava flows (Pacaya), Earthquake damage (Antigua), Pyroclastic flow and lahar deposits (Fuego),ignibrites (Atitlan) and Vulcanian explosions (Santiaguito). The field trip also encompasses visits to three volcano observatories, the headquarters of both the geological survey (INSIVUMEH) and disaster response centre (CONRED) and the Mayan cite at Iximche.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

  • Make observations of natural hazards first hand
  • Further develop and understanding of the physical processes governing the behaviour of natural hazards
  • Make measurements of volcanic activity using various geophysical techniques
  • Discuss in detail the climate, demographics, politics and natural hazards of Central America
  • Fully appreciate the difference between hazards in the developed and developing world
  • Describe the history of the impacts of natural hazards on Guatemala
  • Understand the political structure of the two government bodies (INSIVUMEH and CONRED) responsible for monitoring, mitigating and responding to natural hazards

Teaching details


Assessment Details

The assessment is 100% coursework-based.

Reading and References

General References:

  • Cameron, B.I., Walker, J.A., Carr, M.J., Patino, L.C., Matias, O., Feigenson, M.D. (2002): Flux versus decompression melting at stratovolcanoes in southeastern Guatemala. JVGR 119:21-50;
  • Drexler, J.W., Rose, W.I., Sparks, R.S.J., Ledbetter, M.T. (1980): The Los Chocoyos Ash, Guatemala: A major stratigraphic marker in Middle America and in three ocean basins. Quaternary Research 13:327-345;
  • Halsor, S.P., Rose, W.I. (1988): Common characteristics of paired volcanoes in Northern Central America. JGR 93B5:4467-4476;
  • Reynolds, J.H. (1980): Late Tertiary volcanic stratigraphy of Northern Central America. Bull. Volc. 43:601-607;
  • Rodriguez, L.A., Watson, I.M., Rose, W.I., Branan, Y.K., Bluth, G.J.S., Chigna, G., Matias, O., Escobar, D., Carn, S.A., Fischer, T.P. (2004): SO2 emissions to the atmosphere from active volcanoes in Guatemala and El Salvador, 1999-2002. JVGR 138:325-344;
  • Rose, W.I., Conway, F.M., Pullinger, C.R., Deino, A., McIntosh, W.C. (1999): An improved age framework for late Quaternary silicic eruptions in northern Central America. Bull. Volc. 61:106-120;
  • Vallance, J.W., Siebert, L., Rose, W.I., Giron, J.R., Banks, N.G. (1995): Edifice collapse and related hazards in Guatemala. JVGR 66:337-355.

Additional reading on particular volcanoes is available on Blackboard