Estimation of Volcanic Hazards from Tephra Fallout

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The goal of probabilistic volcanic hazard assessment is to translate complex volcanological data and numerical models into practical hazard estimates for communities potentially affected by volcanic eruptions. Probabilistic volcanic hazard assessment quantifies volcanic hazards and illustrates uncertainties about the magnitude and consequences of volcanic activity. Planning based on probabilistic volcanic hazard assessment has the potential of mitigating the effects of volcanic eruptions when they occur. This paper presents an approach developed to estimate volcanic hazards related to tephra fallout and illustrates this approach with a tephra fallout hazard assessment for the city of León, Nicaragua, and the surrounding area. Tephra fallout from eruptions of Cerro Negro volcano has caused damage to property and adverse health effects and has disrupted life in this area. By summarizing the geologic and historical records of past eruptions of Cerro Negro on a probability tree, it is shown that the inhabitants of León can expect >1 cm of tephra accumulation from approximately 30% of eruptions, and >4 cm of tephra accumulation from approximately 9% of eruptions of Cerro Negro volcano. This historical record is augmented with simulations of tephra dispersion that estimate the likelihood of tephra accumulation given a range of eruption magnitudes and that map the expected distribution of tephra over a broader region. An upper limit value of 0.5 m is calculated using the tephra dispersion model. Without a fundamental change in the eruptive behavior of Cerro Negro, tephra accumulation in León is not expected to exceed this value.

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Natural Hazards Review, v. 2, issue 1, p. 33-42