Articles | Volume 17, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 2301–2312, 2017
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 2301–2312, 2017

Research article 13 Dec 2017

Research article | 13 Dec 2017

Real-time prediction of rain-triggered lahars: incorporating seasonality and catchment recovery

Robbie Jones1, Vern Manville1, Jeff Peakall1, Melanie J. Froude2,a, and Henry M. Odbert3,b Robbie Jones et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
  • 2School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 3School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
  • anow at: Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, 9 Northumberland Road, Sheffield, S10, UK
  • bnow at: Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 3PB, UK

Abstract. Rain-triggered lahars are a significant secondary hydrological and geomorphic hazard at volcanoes where unconsolidated pyroclastic material produced by explosive eruptions is exposed to intense rainfall, often occurring for years to decades after the initial eruptive activity. Previous studies have shown that secondary lahar initiation is a function of rainfall parameters, source material characteristics and time since eruptive activity. In this study, probabilistic rain-triggered lahar forecasting models are developed using the lahar occurrence and rainfall record of the Belham River valley at the Soufrière Hills volcano (SHV), Montserrat, collected between April 2010 and April 2012. In addition to the use of peak rainfall intensity (PRI) as a base forecasting parameter, considerations for the effects of rainfall seasonality and catchment evolution upon the initiation of rain-triggered lahars and the predictability of lahar generation are also incorporated into these models. Lahar probability increases with peak 1 h rainfall intensity throughout the 2-year dataset and is higher under given rainfall conditions in year 1 than year 2. The probability of lahars is also enhanced during the wet season, when large-scale synoptic weather systems (including tropical cyclones) are more common and antecedent rainfall and thus levels of deposit saturation are typically increased. The incorporation of antecedent conditions and catchment evolution into logistic-regression-based rain-triggered lahar probability estimation models is shown to enhance model performance and displays the potential for successful real-time prediction of lahars, even in areas featuring strongly seasonal climates and temporal catchment recovery.

Short summary
Rain-triggered lahars are significant secondary hazards at volcanoes where pyroclastic material is exposed to rainfall. Lahar risk mitigation typically relies upon ground-based flow detection or observation; however this study uses rainfall data and instrumental lahar records from the Belham valley, Montserrat, to devise new rain-triggered lahar prediction tools. These tools demonstrate the potential to effectively forecast lahars in real time, even in areas featuring strongly seasonal climates.
Final-revised paper