Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 309–324 | Cite as

Challenges of modeling current very large lahars at Nevado del Huila Volcano, Colombia

  • Raphael Worni
  • Christian Huggel
  • M. Stoffel
  • B. Pulgarín
Research Article


Nevado del Huila, a glacier-covered volcano in the South of Colombia’s Cordillera Central, had not experienced any historical eruptions before 2007. In 2007 and 2008, the volcano erupted with phreatic and phreatomagmatic events which produced lahars with flow volumes of up to about 300 million m3 causing severe damage to infrastructure and loss of lives. The magnitude of these lahars and the prevailing potential for similar or even larger events, poses significant hazards to local people and makes appropriate modeling a real challenge. In this study, we analyze the recent lahars to better understand the main processes and then model possible scenarios for future events. We used lahar inundation depths, travel duration, and flow deposits to constrain the dimensions of the 2007 event and applied LAHARZ and FLO-2D for lahar modeling. Measured hydrographs, geophone seismic sensor data and calculated peak discharges served as input data for the reconstruction of flow hydrographs and for calibration of the models. For model validation, results were compared with field data collected along the Páez and Simbola Rivers. Based on the results of the 2007 lahar simulation, we modeled lahar scenarios with volumes between 300 million and 1 billion m3. The approach presented here represents a feasible solution for modeling high-magnitude flows like lahars and allows an assessment of potential future events and related consequences for population centers downstream of Nevado del Huila.


Lahar Nevado del Huila Volcano Hydrograph reconstruction Model calibration/validation Lahar modeling FLO-2D LAHARZ 



We would like to thank Adriana Agudelo and Martha Calvache for inviting us to Colombia and for working with INGEOMINAS. Special thanks are addressed to all other persons from INGEOMINAS who supported us in different ways within the present study. For the calibration of LAHARZ, we appreciate advice from Steve Schilling from USGS. We are very grateful for his collaboration and his inputs. USGS also provided satellite images for this work, which were very useful for glacier investigations. The study has been supported financially by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. We appreciate the constructive reviews of Thomas Pierson, Lucia Capra, the associate editor Hugo Delgado and the executive editor James White.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raphael Worni
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christian Huggel
    • 1
    • 3
  • M. Stoffel
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. Pulgarín
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Geological SciencesUniversity of BerneBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.INGEOMINASPopayánColombia

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