GETSI Teaching Materials >Monitoring Volcanoes and Communicating Risks > Overview
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Volcanic Hazards module

Module Goals

Students will:

  1. Interpret geodetic data in the context of monitoring volcanoes in order to assess geologic conditions without direct observations.
  2. Use geodetic data within the constraints of realistic data sets (e.g. incomplete, seemingly contradictory results) in order to forecast volcanic activity.
  3. Identify the risks and hazards associated with volcanoes
  4. Use evidence-based arguments to communicate that monitoring is an ongoing effort.

Summative Assessment

Three exam questions are provided that together can serve as the summative assessment for the module. They are detailed in the Assessment page of this module. In summary they include:

  • Geodetic data interpretation and application questions (Module Goals 1 & 2)
  • Writing a news bulletin to explain the ongoing monitoring activities and "current" activity at a volcano (Module Goal 2)
  • Writing a letter to a policy maker advocating for a volcanic monitoring plan at a volcano (Module Goal 3 & 4)

The summative assessment questions are designed to be used with students who have completed all units of the module, but of course certain ones may be used for students who have done only a subset of the units. Individual units have embedded assessments, which may also be useful.

Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.

Outline

The module covers material sequentially, but the units can also often be taught as stand-alone lessons. For instructors who do not wish to use the module in its entirety, there are suggested pairings in the "Context for Use" section on each unit's page.

Unit 1 Renewed Activity at Mount St. Helens in 2004

How can data from an impending volcanic dome-building event be used to forecast the hazard to a surrounding community? In this activity, students will examine geodetic data (GPS and lidar) and seismic data in a modified gallery walk format (for either small and large enrollment courses) to assess volcanic activity and determine the USGS alert level for the volcano. In addition, students will use a hazard map for the Mount St. Helens area to determine which towns are at risk if a large eruption occurs. An optional post-class activity asks students to develop a way to communicate possible risks to local communities.

Unit 2 Kilauea, Hawaii, Monday Morning Meeting at the Volcano Observatory

How do volcanologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitor volcanoes? In a jigsaw format, students first work in teams to learn one of the four volcano monitoring data sets (GPS, Tilt, Seismic and InSAR) and then move to mixed groups acting as USGS scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to share their data set, learn from their teammates how to interpret the other data sets, and develop a forecast for an eruption of Pu'u O'o at Kilauea volcano.

Unit 3 Yellowstone is active but not erupting?

An eruption at Yellowstone could have devastating effects on large areas of the US and Canada, but what is the likelihood of such an eruption occurring? This unit has students explore seismic data for the last several decades and calculate mean recurrence intervals of seismic swarm events. Additional geodetic data (GPS, InSAR) are used to investigate whether or not seismic swarm events reflect volcanic activity. Finally, students will explain the source and causes of earthquake swarms in the context of responding to non-scientists' concerns that swarms indicate an impending eruption.

Unit 4 Assessment of monitoring 3 different types of volcanoes: Mauna Loa, Fuego, & Rinjani

Students assess the risks from three different volcanoes based on the Risk Equation = Hazard x Value x Vulnerability. The three volcanoes--Fuego Guatemala, Rinjani Indonesia, and Moana Loa Hawaii--have varying characteristics; thus giving the opportunity for dynamic conversations and insights into different volcanoes and their affected communities. The final group product is a table that helps students to identify the volcano that poses the greatest risk and thus most needs monitoring. Students must present a clear rationale for why it is selected over other volcanoes, taking into consideration the volcanic hazards, population characteristics, and infrastructural vulnerabilities for each a volcano. Students also complete a preparatory exercise on the characteristics of different Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) eruptions.

Making the Module Work

To adapt all or part of the module for your classroom you will also want to read through

Instructors who wish to only use part of the module may consider:

  • Units 1-2 can be used individually/stand alone
  • Unit 3 can be used stand-alone but we recommend students are familiar with or have some background information on the interpretation of seismic, GPS and InSAR data
  • Unit 4 is most likely a capstone activity after students have completed Unit 1 and/or Unit 2 plus Unit 3.

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »