Project EARTH-17-DMP2: Using Archives of Past Disasters to Improve Resilience to Volcanic Hazards

Supervisors: David Pyle (Earth Sciences), Tamsin Mather (Earth Sciences), Chris Lintott (Physics), Sally Shuttleworth (English), Steve Reece (Engineering).

Major geophysical events – those with return periods of hundreds or thousands of years – are rare. So our best chances of preparing for future major hazard events is to develop models that are calibrated to deal appropriately with such extreme events. This can be challenging, since physical and conceptual models of volcanic eruptions, and the interactions within the models, are still rather general. One way of testing models, which is now possible using big data and machine learning approaches, is to examine afresh the records of disasters in the past, by using image detection and analysis approaches, augmented by using the ‘crowd’ to capture and interpret afresh the heterogeneous datasets surrounding the event.

The aim of this project is to use a major volcanic disturbance to re-evaluate our models of complex and long-lived multi-hazard events: the eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883. This event was widely documented at the time, and scientific reports of the immediate consequences were published soon after by Symons; and revisited a hundred years later by Simkin and Fiske. However, major questions remain about the nature, timing and impacts of the eruption; of the devastating tsunami triggered by the eruption; and of the full ‘4D’ consequences of the eruption.

Building on expertise in Oxford in crowd-sourcing, we shall use archives of the Krakatoa eruption (both those held at the Royal Society in London, and elsewhere) to help to develop new ways of understanding and visualising a major volcanic eruption; advancing research into volcanic risk. We shall use the Zooniverse platform (a major citizen science portal) to explore the use of crowd-sourcing to exploit archival information on natural hazards, and to develop tools to use for rapid response to emerging events.

Further Reading:

T Simkin and RS Fiske, 1983, Krakatau 1883, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.

GJ Symons, 1888, The eruption of Krakatoa and subsequent phenomena, Trubner, London.