The global magnitude-frequency relationship for large explosive volcanic eruptions

Jonathan Rougier*, Stephen Sparks, Katharine Cashman, Sarah Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

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

39 Citations (Scopus)
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For volcanoes, as for other natural hazards, the frequency of large events diminishes with their magnitude, as captured by the magnitude–frequency relationship. Assessing this relationship is valuable both for the insights it provides about volcanism, and for the practical challenge of risk management. We derive a global magnitude–frequency relationship for explosive volcanic eruptions of at least 300Mt of erupted mass (or M4.5). Our approach is essentially empirical, based on the eruptions recorded in the LaMEVE database. It differs from previous approaches mainly in our conservative treatment of magnitude-rounding and under-recording. Our estimate for the return period of 'super-eruptions’ (1000Gt, or M8) is 17ka (95% CI: 5.2ka, 48ka), which is substantially shorter than previous estimates, indicating that volcanoes pose a larger risk to human civilisation than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-629
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018


  • exceedance probability
  • extreme event
  • geohazard
  • LaMEVE
  • marked Poisson process
  • return period


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