The FUTUREVOLC project will integrate advanced monitoring and analytical techniques in new, coordinated and innovative ways in order to improve our understanding of magma dynamics and storage in the crust, eruption triggers, and the dynamics of magmatic and volcanic processes during eruptions. Particular focus will be on: (i) Detailed monitoring and improved understanding of episodes of seismic/magmatic unrest, since such episodes do not always lead to eruptions but may be eruption precursors. We will effectively interpret data in near real-time to establish magma volumes available for eruption and to provide timely and informative early warnings. (ii) Determine the dynamics of magma in the conduit and the mass eruption rate in real to near real-time, in response to the need to provide well-characterised eruption parameters with uncertainties in order to reduce uncertainty in ash dispersal modelling, and (iii) Observing and modelling of dynamic plumes and dispersal of volcanic ash and gas. The project will improve our ability to identify, characterise and provide early warnings for impending eruptions, to understand in real-time the dynamics and progression of an eruption through time and crucially to provide eruptive parameters to operational agencies in close to real-time thus reducing uncertainty in models of dispersion of ash in Europe in future eruptions.
Volcanic eruptions occur in Iceland about once every 2-5 years. Eruptions range from being relatively small, posing limited local hazard, to major explosive eruptions and flood basalt outpourings of lava that can have catastrophic effects in Iceland and serious impact on Europe. The 1783-84 Laki eruption is the most recent event of this type (Thordarson and Self, 2003). About 80% of all Icelandic eruptions are explosive producing plumes that transport volcanic ash and gas to considerable distances (Thordarson and Larsen, 2007). When northwesterly winds prevail, explosive eruptions in Iceland pose a risk to air traffic in Europe due to the dispersal of airborne volcanic ash and gas. The impact of even small-moderate magnitude eruptions can be serious, as exemplified by the Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption. It lasted 39 days and lead to widespread disruptions in aviation, most seriously from April 15th to 21st when 313 European airports (80% of the network) were totally disabled leading to the cancellation of more than 100.000 flights and disrupting the travel of more than 10 million passengers (Calleja, 2010). The financial damage from the eruption has been estimated up to 5 billion US dollars (Oxford Economics, 2010). Serious as these economic losses are, the impact of much larger events, similar to the Laki eruption in 1783-4 that lasted for eight months, would be much more severe. The eruption resulted in 15% of the population of Iceland perishing in a famine. A persistent sulphuric haze affected the whole northern hemisphere, resulting in crop failures and causing famine and increased mortality rates in Europe and America with tens of thousands of deaths attributed to the eruption outside Iceland (Witham and Oppenheimer, 2005; Trigo et al., 2010). Eruptions of comparable magnitude to Laki 1783-84 occur in Iceland once every 200-500 years (Thordarson and Larsen, 2007).
The study area covers all the volcanic zones of Iceland, with special focus on the most active volcanoes in the Eastern Volcanic Zone of Iceland, including Katla, Grímsvötn, Hekla and Bárðarbunga, that are responsible for more than half of all eruptions in Iceland (see Figure 1.1). The great variety of styles of volcanic activity demonstrated in Iceland through historic time is unique in Europe (Thordarson and Larsen, 2007; Thordarson and Höskuldsson, 2008) and provides this project with a natural laboratory setting and a potential to advance understanding and modelling of a variety of magmatic and volcanic processes. The project will develop new and much-needed new in-situ sensors, and early warning instrumentation. Sensors proven useful during research trials will be integrated into existing operational monitoring networks in Iceland and procedures will be developed to ensure that the great depth of knowledge and experience within the consortium can be tapped in real-time during unrest or eruption. FUTUREVOLC will explicitly encourage interaction and knowledge exchange between different scientific disciplines, in particular between solid earth and atmospheric science, and between social and physical sciences. Data gathered in the project will be made available through an open-access policy. In addition, we will build on co-funded work to create an eruption database, taking into account uncertainties, to be better able to assess the likelihood of future eruptions. This project aims to deliver an operational demonstrator that can be adapted to other volcanic regions in Europe and elsewhere around the world. This will be achieved through the combination of innovative science, state-of-the art monitoring and data acquisition, coordinated and cohesive operational planning, and Europe-wide communications networks.