Risk Modeling for Pyroclastic Volcano Flows
Mentor: Elaine Spiller
Approach: Develop and evaluate simplistic physical approximations that could be used as a fast surrogate for computationally-intensive mass flow simulations.
Summary: A major hazard of volcanic activity is mass flows - debris flows, block and ash flows and hot pyroclastic flows. After lying dormant for more than 300 years, the Soufriere Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat began an eruptive phase in 1996. Hundreds of mass flows have occurred during the last 13 years, ranging in size from thousands of cubic meters of material to 200 million cubic meters of material. Several of the largest of these flows have caused tremendous damage to population centers on the island, to the extent that today, more than half the island has been evacuated. A challenge for volcanology is to predict the hazard risk at specific sites due to mass flows. Together with a group of geologists, engineers, mathematicians and statisticians, Mentor Spiller is developing tools to quantify the risk from pyroclastic and block and ash flows. Students on this project will learn about and implement methods to simulate rare events, learn about statistical emulators, and work on developing simplistic physical approximations that could be used as a fast surrogate for mass flow simulations.