Whakaari tragedy: court case highlights just how complex it is to forecast a volcanic eruption
In a new article on The Conversation, UC’s Dr David Dempsey and UoA’s Professor Shane Cronin explain that forecasting different levels of eruption risk requires advances in our basic science, as well as automated systems that can judge risk and raise concerns. Even with this, the way we measure and interpret this natural system means it will never be completely safe.
Whakaari White Island has a network of instruments that measure seismic waves. Phil Walter/Getty Images
The December 9 2019 eruption struck when 47 people were on the small island; 22 people died and survivors were left with severe or critical injuries.
But what will really be on trial when proceedings resume, most likely in September? Ultimately, it comes down to how the individuals present on the day perceived the natural hazard and risk, and especially its uncertainty.
This understanding rests on processes we have in place to communicate and manage risk for workers and tourists exposed to unpredictable natural environments. It is really these processes that should be on trial.
Scientists are at the frontline of understanding volcanic nature. They use physical, chemical and geological methods to delve into volcanic systems.