Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 6, pp 1337–1353 | Cite as

Geographical information system approaches for hazard mapping of dilute lahars on Montserrat, West Indies

  • A. R. Darnell
  • J. Barclay
  • R. A. Herd
  • J. C. Phillips
  • A. A. Lovett
  • P. Cole
Research Article


Many research tools for lahar hazard assessment have proved wholly unsuitable for practical application to an active volcanic system where field measurements are challenging to obtain. Two simple routing models, with minimal data demands and implemented in a geographical information system (GIS), were applied to dilute lahars originating from Soufrière Hills Volcano, Montserrat. Single-direction flow routing by path of steepest descent, commonly used for simulating normal stream-flow, was tested against LAHARZ, an established lahar model calibrated for debris flows, for ability to replicate the main flow routes. Comparing the ways in which these models capture observed changes, and how the different modelled paths deviate can also provide an indication of where dilute lahars, do not follow behaviour expected from single-phase flow models. Data were collected over two field seasons and provide (1) an overview of gross morphological change after one rainy season, (2) details of dominant channels at the time of measurement, and (3) order of magnitude estimates of individual flow volumes. Modelling results suggested both GIS-based predictive tools had associated benefits. Dominant flow routes observed in the field were generally well-predicted using the hydrological approach with a consideration of elevation error, while LAHARZ was comparatively more successful at mapping lahar dispersion and was better suited to long-term hazard assessment. This research suggests that end-member models can have utility for first-order dilute lahar hazard mapping.


Dilute lahar Hazard GIS LAHARZ Single-direction flow routing 



This research was largely financed through an ESRC/NERC studentship (PTA-036-2006-00016). We are extremely grateful to MVO for sharing some of their data and equipment with us. Thanks also to Steve Schilling of the USGS for allowing LAHARZ to be used for this research, and to Adrian Matthews, UEA, for rainfall data. We gratefully acknowledge constructive reviews by Lucia Capra and an anonymous reviewer which have improved this paper, and editorial assistance from Hugo Delgado.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. R. Darnell
    • 1
  • J. Barclay
    • 1
  • R. A. Herd
    • 1
  • J. C. Phillips
    • 2
  • A. A. Lovett
    • 1
  • P. Cole
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Montserrat Volcano ObservatoryWest IndiesMontserrat
  4. 4.Seismic Research CentreUniversity of the West IndiesWITrinidad and Tobago

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