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International workshop on Cerro Negro and Hekla volcanoes, Nicaragua and Iceland

International workshop on Cerro Negro and Hekla volcanoes, Nicaragua and Iceland

4-13 September 2011

Cerro Negro in Nicaragua and Hekla in Iceland are two basaltic to basaltic andesite volcanoes that erupt explosively, frequently, and with little or no warning. For these reasons, they are unusual and interesting from a scientific perspective. They also pose a significant hazards problem for people living both close to and far from the volcanoes.

Cerro Negro forms part of the Central American Volcanic Arc from subduction of the Cocos plate beneath the Caribbean plate. Hekla sits astride the South Icelandic Seismic Zone above the mid-Atlantic spreading centre and Iceland plume. Despite their vastly different tectonic settings, Cerro Negro and Hekla share some significant characteristics.  Both volcanoes (1) show extreme quiescence between eruptions, with very low activity in terms of gas emissions and seismicity, (2) are able to reactivate suddenly, commonly with less than an hour’s warning time before an eruption commences, (3) exhibit initial eruptive phases which are exceptionally violent, explosive, and relatively short-lived, typically with subplinian eruption columns, (4) exhibit a positive correlation between repose time and explosivity, suggesting that free gas is able to accumulate beneath the volcanoes prior to eruption, and (5) produce significant ashfall and associated hazards, disrupting peoples’ lives locally and also on a larger scale, e.g,, disruptions to civil aviation.

Hence the principal objective of this workshop is a better scientific understanding of and predictive ability for these two enigmatic volcanoes, which may very well erupt again soon. We will explore the workings of the two volcanoes through a series of workshop sessions and fieldtrips. There are four main goals. First, we wish to increase our understanding of when, how and why these volcanoes erupt, as well as improved insight into the subsurface magmatic plumbing systems that nourish these volcanoes. Second, we want to develop new tools and new approaches to be able to increase our understanding. Some of these tools will be synergistic, e.g., integrating geodesy and measurements of gas emissions. Third, we want to use the workshop to build new international collaborative research teams and research projects to study these volcanoes. Fourth, we wish to build capacity in Nicaragua, Iceland, and also at the graduate student level. Hence the workshop has an important training element built in.

We believe that it is essential to run the workshop where the volcanoes are, i.e., in Nicaragua and Iceland, so that participants can see each volcano and start to conduct field research (e.g., sample collection and geophysical measurements). Hence our plan is to spend several days in Nicaragua examining Cerro Negro in workshop sessions and in the field, then travel together as a group to Iceland and do the same at Hekla. We invite participation from researchers and graduate students who have various fields of expertise on these and other similar systems. We wish to generate integrative discussions and debate on the workings and plumbing of the two volcanoes by involving a number of people with different and complementary scientific perspectives. By integrating our various spheres of knowledge, data, and expertise in a collaborative fashion and format during this workshop, we believe that we can further our understanding of these systems significantly.

THE TIME IS RIPE AND RIGHT NOW TO HOLD SUCH A WORKSHOP. The probability is very high that one or both of these volcanoes will erupt again in the next five to ten years, so this workshop provides us with a strategic window of opportunity to enhance our scientific, predictive, and hazards response capabilities BEFORE the volcanoes erupt. If one of the volcanoes does indeed erupt before the workshop takes place, the workshop will provide an ideal venue to assess the eruption, examine early results, and plan future collaborative and comparative work.

Please contact one of the organizers below if you are interested in participating. We will attempt to secure partial funding for scientists from developing countries and for graduate students.

Pete LaFemina, Penn State University,
Angélica Muñoz, INETER,
Rikke Pedersen, Institute of Earth Sciences,
Freysteinn Sigmundsson, Institute of Earth Sciences,
John Stix, McGill University,
Marc-Antoine Longpré, McGill University,
Halldor Geirsson, Penn State University,
J. Armando Saballos, University of South Florida,

Tentative schedule:

Sunday, 4 September:     participants arrive in Nicaragua
Monday, 5 September:    workshop session #1
Tuesday, 6 September:   Cerro Negro fieldtrips
Wednesday, 7 September: workshop session #2
Thursday, 8 September:  travel from Nicaragua to Iceland
Friday, 9 September:        participants arrive in Iceland, travel to Hekla
Saturday, 10 September: workshop session #3
Sunday, 11 September:   Hekla fieldtrips
Monday, 12 September:   final workshop session #4
Tuesday, 13 September:  participants return home