11-15 September 2011, Erice, Italy
First Circular

Erice Italy

Risks posed by volcanic eruptions continue to grow as populations near active volcanoes and air traffic over them continue to increase. Meanwhile, there is increasing technical capability of volcano observatories and associated scientists to detect and analyze unrest well in advance of eruption, providing great promise and sometimes the reality that forecasting eruptions can minimize loss of life and property. This capability carries with it the responsibility to construct the best possible procedures to support necessary governmental actions such as evacuating populations and/or restricting travel and commerce.

Although scientific understanding of volcanic processes is advancing, the basis for interpretation of monitoring data with respect to near-term hazards remains largely empirical. Critical experience may come first-hand only a few times during the career of an individual observatory-based scientist, but much of the advance in short-term eruption forecasting depends upon relating monitoring observations to volcanic outcomes. It is therefore important that lessons learned be shared internationally, so that a consensus on, and useful guide for, volcano observatory best practices can be developed.

Under the aegis of IAVCEI and WOVO, the INGV and USGS are convening the first of what may become a series of volcano observatory best practices (VOBP) workshops. This meeting will focus on the critical theme of forecasting the occurrence of eruptions and their probable impact in the near term, when quick action may be needed. The emphasis will be on presentation and discussion of experiences in forecasting eruptions, both successful and unsuccessful, while leaving extensive discussion of the important underlying science to meetings such as IAVCEI, AGU, and EGU. The objective is to develop synergy among volcano hazards programs and their observatories internationally, so as to more rapidly and broadly advance the field.

Form of the workshop

The workshop will consist of three full-day sessions for discussion of three categories of volcano unrest: Day I. Long dormant volcanoes, Day II. Frequently active volcanoes, and Day III. Calderas. Speakers will be selected by the advisory committee to span a representative range of experiences in eruption forecasting. Each speaker will be asked to describe: 1) How was unrest recognized? 2) How was it determined that magma was or was not involved? 3) What were the indications of where and when magma would erupt? 4) What was the evidence of the relative size of the impending eruption? 5) What instrumentation or procedures might have improved the outcome ("wish list")?

Each presentation will be followed by extensive discussion. "Lessons learned" and general principles will be summarized at the end of each session. These points will be reviewed on Day IV (half day), together with a discussion of the form that forecasts and warnings should take. After the meeting adjourns, a representative subgroup of writers (to be determined) will meet for two days in Rome to begin preparation of a report, "Best Practices in Near-Term Eruption Forecasting", that will then be circulated among all applicants to the workshop, revised as appropriate, and published.

All participants are encouraged to bring posters. These may describe experiences with interpreting volcano unrest or report progress in methods and paradigms for improving preparedness and support for decision-making.


The Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture of Erice (http://www.ccsem.infn.it/) is a world renowned scientific organization established in 1963 by the physicist Antonino Zichichi to offer scientists from all disciplines and from all parts of the world an ideal venue to rally around the banner of a science without secrets and without frontiers. The Centre is situated in the old pre-mediaeval city of Erice, 750 m above the Tyrrhenian Sea (Mt. Etna is visible in days with clear sky). Four restored monasteries provide an appropriate setting for intellectual endeavors. The ancient buildings and lecture halls are now named after great scientists including Enrico Fermi, Paul Dirac, Richard Feynman, and Victor Weisskopf. The Isidor I. Rabi Institute houses the Polo Sismico, the first worldwide Network of Seismological Detectors (1981), as well as living quarters for people attending sessions at the Centre. The venue is reached by ground transportation that the workshop will provide from the Palermo airport. Accommodations and meals will be about 100 Euros/day; details will follow.

Steering committee (alphabetically):

Advisory committee (alphabetically):

…………….to be expanded for broader geographic representation…………………….

Workshop secretariat:

Silvia Nardi: silvia.nardi@ingv.it

Financial support:

A goal of the meeting is to have as comprehensive international representation as possible. The organizers are actively seeking support from appropriate international organizations to defray the cost for scientists from developing countries. We are also asking the volcano hazards programs of developed countries to help if they are able.

Request for letters of interest:

At this time, we ask scientists who have direct responsibility in decision-making during volcanic crises and are interested in attending the workshop to submit a statement of interest by email, with "VOBP" in the subject line, to the VOBP Workshop Secretariat, silvia.nardi@ingv.it, with cc to jeichelberger@usgs.gov and papale@pi.ingv.it, containing the following:

  1. Brief description of proposed presentation and/or contribution to discussion.
  2. Role in observatory operations and/or other risk mitigation function.
  3. Whether or not financial support is necessary.
  4. If you need an official letter of invitation to obtain a visa for Italy or to obtain support from your organization.

Students are encouraged to apply, even if they are not currently associated with a volcano observatory. To be considered, the statement of interest must be received by the VOBP Workshop Secretariat by April 1.

Because of constraints of the meeting facility and the need for inclusive discussion, attendance will be limited to 60. All countries with serious volcano hazards should be included, so no more than a few scientists from each country will be able to attend. The advisory committee will select attendees, giving preference for those with the most active role in volcano risk mitigation but also including some students. The organizers hope that scientists who want to attend will be understanding of this requirement. All respondents to this circular will have the opportunity to comment on the draft report.

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World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) Logo WOVO
Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) - US National Science Foundation (NSF) Logo
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) Logo
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