Instrumentation and Software for the Monitoring of Active Volcanoes 2013

Temuco and Villarrica, Chile, 20 February - 1 March 2013

By  Kayla Iacovino, SSI Fellow and PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Highlights:

1. New investments in national volcano monitoring programmes means that agencies are buying a lot of new equipment. Unfortunately, the software that comes along with the equipment is difficult to use and understand.
2. Much of the software needed for volcano monitoring requires a great deal of programing knowledge.
3. Software and instrumentation need to be automated so that the instruments could run perpetually at a remote location.
4. Software should be tailored to the application that it is being used for.

Conference report:

The workshop was primarily a collaboration between The Volcanofiles (University of Cambridge) and OVDAS (Observatorio volcanologico de los Andes del Sur -- Southern Andes Volcano Observatory in Chile). Discussions and training sessions were held both at OVDAS headquarters in Temuco and in the field at Villarrica volcano. A critical goal of this workshop was in exchanging knowledge regarding volcano monitoring techniques. For example, OVDAS recently had an influx of new equipment useful in volcano monitoring (notably UV cameras), however none of their staff were trained in using the equipment or the software. Members of our team have had extensive experience in using and coding for UV cameras for the explicit purpose of volcano monitoring and helped to train OVDAS staff in the use of these cameras. OVDAS mainly use seismometers to monitor volcanoes. Their staff gave us access to data from their extensive seismic network. In addition, OVDAS placed a seismometer at the rim of Villarrica volcano so that seismic measurements could be taken in tandem with UV camera measurements. In this way, the two
data sets could be combined for further interpretation.

During the workshop, it was noted that much of the software used in volcano monitoring is adapted from other fields, and, at times, this can make its application to volcanology difficult. For example, the UV camera software was originally written to obtain and process astronomical data. To take a UV image of a volcano, one must click the "find star" button. Throughout the workshop, it was agreed upon that software meant to be used for a particular application should be tailored to that application before being bundled with instrumentation. UV cameras in particular are becoming very popular with volcano monitoring facilities around the world. There seems to be significant interest in developing better, more sustainable code for use with UV cameras.

The Volcanofiles also provided access to AvoScanners, scanning instruments for monitoring SO2 flux from active volcanoes, and the relevant software, AvoScan. Both the hardware and software were developed at the University of Cambridge by a member of our team, Nial Peters. Other devices similar to
AvoScanners already exist in the volcano monitoring community, but OVDAS were particularly impressed not only with the tailored, easy-to-use, open source software, but with the low price of the units (and free price of the software). Overall, OVDAS staff seemed interested in moving toward wider use of open source software and hardware. Currently, nearly all of their software is proprietary.