MED-SUV project: the mediterranean supersite volcanoes

The MED-SUV project developped and implemented state-of-the-art infrastructure for the volcanic risk management life-cycle, from the observation to people preparedness, in southern Italy. The infrastructure relies upon the improvements of the understanding of geophysical processes underlying the volcanic systems of Vesuvius / Campi Flegrei and Mt. Etna. It also achieved the integration of existing components, such as monitoring systems and data bases, novel sensors for the measurements of volcanic parameters, and tools for data analysis and process modelling.
31 August 2020

The European FP7 MED-SUV project (MEDiterranean SUpersite Volcanoes) was funded under the call FP7 ENV.2012.6.4-2 : Long-term monitoring experiment in geologically active regions of Europe prone to natural hazards : the Supersite concept. Grant agreement n°308665.

European flag

European flag.

© Council of Europe

Project description and challenges

Active volcanoes in densely populated areas represent a major natural hazard that influences and guides the territory management policy and requires a strong and effective interplay of the societal components (science, engineering, policy makers). This has led to the implementation of in-situ volcano monitoring systems worldwide, as well as an increasing interest of Earth Observation (EO) missions to acquire geophysical and geochemical parameters linked to the volcanic activity.

In Europe, the south of Italy is a clear example of such a situation, where various areas are threatened by virtually all types of volcanic hazards (from lava flows to tephra falls, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and widespread ash clouds affecting international air traffic). The metropolitan area of Naples (more than 2 million of inhabitants with a density > 2.600 inhabitants/km2) has grown within the Campi Flegrei caldera and around Vesuvius volcano ; both volcanoes have shown highly explosive volcanism throughout their geological histories and into historical time. A new eruption is expected to produce 10-30 km-high volcanic columns, ash cloud dispersal over substantial portions of Europe and beyond (depending on wind directions), and devastating pyroclastic flows. The area of Naples is one with the highest levels of volcanic risk worldwide also considering that, since the 1950s, a phase of unrest is under way in the Campi Flegrei caldera, whose macroscopic effects resemble those of phenomena that preceded its most recent eruption in 1538. Therefore, a volcanic eruption would have the potential to cause a crisis of European proportions.

The challenge from future eruptions in this densely populated area requires the most avant-garde monitoring methods and techniques to be applied, in order to capture and correctly interpret premonitory signs of unrest in time to permit an adequate response. This Task is rather delicate also because of the risk of a false alarm that could cause partial to total disruption of social, cultural, and economic life and bring hardship to an exceptionally large number of people. Conversely, late warning of an unusually rapid eruption onset can result in a rather chaotic response, with a high risk of economic and human losses.

Results and uses

During the three-year project, MED-SUV yielded several breakthroughs in monitoring, studying and modelling the volcanic processes and the related phenomena, as well as in assessing the potential hazards in the Italian volcanic areas. n particular, the main achievements were:

  • Appointing of Mt. Etna and Campi Flegrei / Vesuvius as permanent Supersites: this implies the matching of GEO-GSLN guidelines on data accessibility and continuity of both in-situ and EO data provision;  
  • Integration: multidisciplinary data sets, from in-situ and EO system, have been merged to obtain new information; 
  • New knowledge on volcanic structures and processes: investigations into the volcano plumbing system and its dynamics, on the characterization of the surface phenomena (e.g. lava and pyroclastic flows, explosive activity) and their interaction with the environment (e.g. volcanic plumes);
  • New tools for monitoring and hazard assessment, awareness and preparedness: technological innovations involving European industrial partnership; exploitation of new knowledge for making steps forward in hazard assessment and implementation of new tools; engagement of local decision-makers in charge of risk management; implementation of dissemination tools (e.g. leaflets); and carrying out appropriate educational activities in schools; 
  • Applicability of the new volcanology findings and of the novel technological products: the project outcomes were tested and validated at other European volcanic areas (Azores and Piton de la Fournaise) and it was also argued whether they might have been suitable for the monitoring and study of further basaltic volcanoes (i.e.Kilauea volcano, Hawai'i);
  • Data and product accessibility: the project set up a website and an e-infrastructure for accessing to data and products; this is the result of a complex tuning of several activities, e.g. data base standardization and interoperability, data policy implementation.
Educational poster

An educational poster designed by the MED-SUV project.

© BRGM 

The role of BRGM

Raising awareness among young people about volcanic risks

As part of the European MED-SUV project concerning the management of volcanic risks in southern Italy, BRGM has produced educational brochures to make young people more aware of these issues.

With the support of the INGV, the DLR (the German National Aeronautics and Space Research Centre) and the DPC (the Italian Civil Protection Department), BRGM has produced a range of educational materials for schools to raise awareness about volcanic risks. These tools notably present the volcano monitoring systems in place and provide advice on how to be properly prepared for an eruption.

The aim of the brochures and posters is also to stimulate school pupils' curiosity about the different types and shapes of volcanoes. The content of the tools was designed in response to preliminary results from in-school activities organised by the University of Granada (Spain), which showed that over 90% of the pupils interviewed imaged volcanoes as having a conical shape.

The educational materials are available in six languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish).

A three-dimensional map of the volcanic ash plume derived from Landsat 8 satellite

In parallel, Dr. Marcello de Michele and Dr. Daniel Raucoules (BRGM) and their team used the Landsat 8 satellite to extract a three-dimensional map of the volcanic ash plume.

Consortium

The MED-SUV consortium brough together institutions and companies having the needed experiences and expertise for the achievement of the project objectives, organized in a synergetic way. Together, these scientific and industrial partners as well as public agencies with long and well-assessed experiences formed a consortium able to cover the whole volcanic risk management cycle, from observations to public communication. In addition to the remarkable human resources that make up the consortium, the partners also brough critical infrastructure into play, with world class monitoring networks, laboratories, computer facilities, etc.

  • ISTITUTO NAZIONALE DI GEOFISICA E VULCANOLOGIA (Coordinator) – INGV – Italy
  • CONSIGLIO NAZIONALE DELLE RICERCHE – CNR – Italy 
  • AMRA - ANALISI E MONITORAGGIO DEL R ISCHIO AMBIENTALE SCARL – AMRA – Italy
  • PRESIDENZA DEL CONSIGLIO DEI MINISTRI - DIPARTIMENTO DELLA PROTEZIONE CIVILE – DPC – Italy 
  • DEUTSCHES ZENTRUM FUER LUFT - UND RAUMFAHRT EV – DLR – Germany  
  • LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS-UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN – LMU     – Germany
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum – GFZ – Germany
  • UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM – UDUR – United Kingdom
  • UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL – UNIVBRIS –    United Kingdom
  • CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE – CNRS – France
  • BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES – BRGM – France
  • EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY – ESA – Italy
  • AGENCIA ESTATAL CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS – CSIC – Spain
  • UNIVERSIDAD DE GRANADA – UGR – Spain
  • Universidade dos Açores – UAC – Portugal
  • UNIVERSITA TA MALTA – UoM – Malta
  • SURVEY LAB – Surveylab – Italy
  • MARWAN TECHNOLOGY – MATEC – Italy
  • TERRADUE UK LTD – T2 – United Kingdom
  • THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO – Western – Canada
  • UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY – USGS - HVO – United States
  • UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI MILANO – UMIL – Italy
  • DELTAG SRL – DELTAG – Italy
  • UNIVERSITE BLAISE PASCAL CLERMONT-FERRAND II – UBP-LMV – France

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