An interdisciplinary approach to volcanic risk reduction under conditions of uncertainty: a case study of Tristan da Cunha
Abstract. The uncertainty brought about by intermittent volcanic activity is fairly common at volcanoes worldwide. While better knowledge of any one volcano's behavioural characteristics has the potential to reduce this uncertainty, the subsequent reduction of risk from volcanic threats is only realised if that knowledge is pertinent to stakeholders and effectively communicated to inform good decision making. Success requires integration of methods, skills and expertise across disciplinary boundaries.
This research project develops and trials a novel interdisciplinary approach to volcanic risk reduction on the remote volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha (South Atlantic). For the first time, volcanological techniques, probabilistic decision support and social scientific methods were integrated in a single study. New data were produced that (1) established no spatio-temporal pattern to recent volcanic activity; (2) quantified the high degree of scientific uncertainty around future eruptive scenarios; (3) analysed the physical vulnerability of the community as a consequence of their geographical isolation and exposure to volcanic hazards; (4) evaluated social and cultural influences on vulnerability and resilience; and (5) evaluated the effectiveness of a scenario planning approach, both as a method for integrating the different strands of the research and as a way of enabling on-island decision makers to take ownership of risk identification and management, and capacity building within their community.
The paper provides empirical evidence of the value of an innovative interdisciplinary framework for reducing volcanic risk. It also provides evidence for the strength that comes from integrating social and physical sciences with the development of effective, tailored engagement and communication strategies in volcanic risk reduction.