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Preparing for future eruptions

GA Volcanologists

Volcanic ash is entirely different from the bushfire or backyard barbeque ash that most Australians are familiar with.

It’s abrasive and corrosive rock, formed from small particles of fragmented lava which travel vast distances, leaving a passage of devastation in its place.

To help reduce the destruction caused by this deadly ash, volcanologists from Geoscience Australia have used NCI’s supercomputer, Raijin, to generate computational models that can be used to forecast volcanic ash fall. Having the ability to do this can help to better prepare for hazards, assist infrastructure planning and improve disaster management for high-risk areas.

Project leader Dr Adele Bear-Crozier and her team built a catalogue of eruptions from a database of volcanoes that have been active in Asia and the Pacific in the last 10,000 years in order to model the potential volcanic ash hazard in the region.

“There is a massive amount of data involved,” Dr Bear-Crozier explains.

“We basically take eruptions and look at almost 20 million permutations of those eruptions with different wind conditions; and that’s where the NCI becomes vital.

“NCI provides the flexibility and the space to look at either really vast regional applications or zoom in and do the really good, high-detail ones on a local scale.”

The more exhaustive the modelling the more confidence the researchers can have in the results, says Dr Bear-Crozier.

“Due to the enormous amount of data involved with volcanic ash, we wouldn’t have attempted this project without having the NCI facility at our disposal.”

The probabilistic volcanic ash work being undertaken by Geoscience Australia at NCI is helping to inform decision-making by governments across the Asia-Pacific who are faced with potential volcanic eruptions.

The research was included in the United Nation’s 2015 Global Assessment Report, released in March 2015 at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.

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