Monitoring and Forecasting


-Gustavo Fuente Alba, Chile

-Rafael Barquero, Costa Rica

-Gustavo Chigna, Guatemala

-David Harlow, United States

-Andy Lockhart, United States

-Eduardo Malavassi, Costa Rica

-Rodolfo Morales, Guatemala

-Milton Ordoñez, Colombia

-Mario Ruiz, Ecuador

-Rodolfo Van der Laat, Costa Rica

The members of the group received information from the colleagues of INSIVUMEH about the state of volcanic surveillance on the Santa María/Santiaguito volcano. The situation can be summarized in the following manner: the systematic and periodic measurements on the volcano have been deteriorating through time due to the shortage of operational resources which INSIVUMEH now faces. The volcanic surveillance is limited at the present time to the observation of the site from a building located on "El Faro" Finca and undertaken by a local observer with little training in volcanology who operates a radio to communicate with INSIVUMEH. At the same site, a portable seismograph is in operation. This seismograph is the only one installed around the volcano due to the fact that two seismographic stations with telemetry which used to function in the vicinity of the volcano are no longer operating. In addition to this, the economic situation does not allow functionaries of the INSIVUMEH to carry out regular visits for activity follow-up. Basic data sets of deformation and geochemistry have been interrupted.

The main problem that makes volcanic surveillance difficult or almost impossible is the low budget for operation and the shortage of resources on which INSIVUMEH relies. The situation is desperate in the matter of financial resources which the country must allocate, since international aid cannot contribute resources for operational expenses. It is lamentable that in a situation that at an international level supports the acquisition of equipment for the scientific and technical institutions of the region, in the fields of volcanology and seismology such resources can be lost because of lack of appropriate national allotments. We recommend that the national authorities of Guatemala review priorities for the prevention of volcanic eruption hazards in order to allocate adequate resources that will make possible the organization and implementation of volcanic surveillance. Once the national allotment is established it is possible that international and scientific cooperation can provide for the necessary resources so that the Santa María/Santiaguito Complex can have a volcanological observatory with scientific personnel permanently assigned to it. This would make possible the organization of an observation post and a permanent field station. From the observatory in the field station, a program will be executed for the investigation of volcanology that complements the efforts made in volcanic surveillance. The scientific and international community can make a very important contribution in the definition of the research program in volcanology whose coordinator should be INSIVUMEH. Also, it is possible that the efforts undertaken by INSIVUMEH in the field of volcanic surveillance be complemented with the aid and cooperation of foreign scientists.

Volcanic Surveillance Programs

The participants believe that the monitoring program should implement the following methodologies: seismology, deformation, geochemistry, and folin situ follow-of the activity in order to guarantee a successful program of surveillance. This monitoring program can be complemented by means of other methodologies.

Short-term Measures

In order to guarantee a reactivation of this volcanic surveillance, it is necessary to undertake steps leading to governmental (Guatemala) intervention by allocating an adequate budget in the field of operational expenses (transportation and per diem expenses) of the functionaries. There are other alternatives for INSIVUMEH leading to the implementation of efforts for allocation of a robust national budget. These are the incorporation of other institutions in national allocation programs in the field of volcanology such as universities, and state and private enterprises. This incorporation could be established by means of interinstitutional agreements.

Short-term Goals

Once existing opportunities for training on short and mid-term bases are detected (CEPREDENAC, VCAT, OVSICORI-UNESCO), we consider it important to take advantage of this opportunity in order to optimize the training of personnel involved. We should try to take advantage of those opportunities that provide experience proceeding from other observatories and in practical field work (training by doing).

1) Operation of permanent seismographic station with telemetry capable of transmitting to INSIVUMEH headquarters.

2) Operation of permanent portable stat in the observatory Finca El F ofaro.

3) Maintain a permanent observation on non-specialized personnel.

4) Establish follow-up visits of three and four days duration by scientific personnel each two to four weeks.

5) Establish distance-measuring lines by means of the EDM to various reflectors located at the domes.

6) Follow-up on deformation of dome bordorders by means of a theodol.

7) Initiate measurements of SO2 with COSPEC each time it is believed to be convenient, according to the behavior of the volcano.

Long-term Goals

Long term goals require a well-established policy in the field of professional training and formation of scientists abroad. This should facilitate the Guatemalans' training abroad insomuch as they can retain working stability, economic stability, and incentives to return to their country. In some years it is desirable that foreign scientists who work on the Santiaguito complex include Guatemalans in the interpretation of data. It is fundamental that the personnel trained for the observatory have post-graduate degrees in specialized areas from universities abroad.

1) Seismology: a seismic network of five to seven stations with telemetry and parallel t ransmission to Guatemala City and to the Finca El Faro observatory is needed in order to be able to establish correlations between the seismic and eruptive activities of the volcano. Two of the stations must have at least three components.

2) Deformation: installation of at least two electronic inclinometers with telemetry in places in which they can register the deformations. Measurements of horizontal distances as well as the profiles of dome borders should be intensified and made continuously.

3) Geochemistry: periodic measurements with a COSPEC should be implemented on those occasions in which the volcano suggests important changes. The possibility of undertaking geochemical and other forms of surveillance such as the measurement of radon emission with transmission in real time to a registration center should be explored.

4) In order for a volcanic surveillance program to be successful on a long-term basis, the presence of permanent technical personnel at the observatory is fundamental. The ultima goal is to gradually increment personnel to full-time status. In addition, the number of days per month of work for a scientist specializing in volcanic activity should be gradually increased. At the same time, a synthesis of all used methodologies should also be conducted so that a diagnosis of the state of volcanic activity can be obtained at every moment so that these methodologies lead to the development of a good forecasting capability.

5) In order to benefit neighboring communities, it is essential to establish a warning system for the lahars which allows the triggering of alarms in real time when these lahars may occur. This warning system must function in connection with the observatory and must have a radio communication system that allows for communication with the CONE authorities.

6) The international community can make a very important contribution by providing the required equipment for volcanic surveillance, and by complementing the efforts made in this field by INSIVUMEH. This can be accomplished by means of new or experimental methodologies, and by the establishment of research programs which cover other aspects in the field of earth sciences. In order to make this viable, the existence of a field station is needed to operate in parallel with the observatory. These institutions must have electrical power, drinkable water, adequate sanitary services, a space to house personnel from INSIVUMEH, as well as foreign scientists. The observatory must be a register center for telemetric data which allows for observation of eruptive activity parallel with the observation of registers. It is desirable that the field station have radio communication and telephone capabilities.

Once the volcanic surveillance is reestablished and a political decision supports a long-term commitment with the international community, then INSIVUMEH will be able to pave the road for active participation of the international community in the study of Santa María/Santiaguito volcanoes. This would implicate the possibility of establishing a foundation for the participation of national and international entities and personalities in the search for economic resources to maintain and strengthen the Santiaguito observatory.

Since CEPREDENAC has financed the construction of the observatory and since within the next three years possibilities can arise for the organization of training regional centers, it is appropriate to work toward the declaration of Santiaguito as a regional operating and training center. For this reason it is absolutely necessary to reestablish volcanic surveillance and to begin to draw up the long-term program we have proposed above.