Evidence-based volcanology: Application to eruption crises

W. P. Aspinall*, G. Woo, B. Voight, P. J. Baxter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


The way in which strands of uncertain volcanological evidence can be used for decision-making, and the weight that should be given them, is a problem requiring formulation in terms of the logical principles of Evidence Science. The basic ideas are outlined using the explosion at Galeras volcano in Colombia in January 1993 as an example. Our retrospective analysis suggests that if a robust precautionary appraisal had been made of the circumstances in which distinctive tornillo signals were detected at Galeras, those events might have been construed as stronger precursory evidence for imminent explosive activity than were the indications for quiescence, given by the absence of other warning traits. However, whilst visits to the crater might have been recognised as involving elevated risk if this form of analysis had been applied to the situation in January 1993, a traditional scientific consideration of the available information was likely to have provided a neutral assessment of short-term risk levels. We use these inferences not to criticise interpretations or decisions made at the time, but to illustrate how a structured, evidence-based analysis procedure might have provided a different perspective to that derived from the conventional scientific standpoint. We advocate a formalism that may aid such decision-making in future: graphical Bayesian Belief Networks are introduced as a tool for performing the necessary numerical procedures. With this approach, Evidence Science concepts can be incorporated rationally, efficiently and reliably into decision support during volcanic crises.

Translated title of the contributionEvidence-based volcanology: application to eruption crises
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-285
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2003


  • Bayes' Rule
  • Bayesian Belief Network
  • Decision support
  • Evidence Science
  • Expert judgment
  • Galeras volcano
  • Risk assessment
  • Volcanic eruption


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