Variations in community exposure to lahar hazards from multiple volcanoes in Washington State (USA)

Journal of Applied Volcanology
By: , and 



Understanding how communities are vulnerable to lahar hazards provides critical input for effective design and implementation of volcano hazard preparedness and mitigation strategies. Past vulnerability assessments have focused largely on hazards posed by a single volcano, even though communities and officials in many parts of the world must plan for and contend with hazards associated with multiple volcanoes. To better understand community vulnerability in regions with multiple volcanic threats, we characterize and compare variations in community exposure to lahar hazards associated with five active volcanoes in Washington State, USA—Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens—each having the potential to generate catastrophic lahars that could strike communities tens of kilometers downstream. We use geospatial datasets that represent various population indicators (e.g., land cover, residents, employees, tourists) along with mapped lahar-hazard boundaries at each volcano to determine the distributions of populations within communities that occupy lahar-prone areas. We estimate that Washington lahar-hazard zones collectively contain 191,555 residents, 108,719 employees, 433 public venues that attract visitors, and 354 dependent-care facilities that house individuals that will need assistance to evacuate. We find that population exposure varies considerably across the State both in type (e.g., residential, tourist, employee) and distribution of people (e.g., urban to rural). We develop composite lahar-exposure indices to identify communities most at-risk and communities throughout the State who share common issues of vulnerability to lahar-hazards. We find that although lahars are a regional hazard that will impact communities in different ways there are commonalities in community exposure across multiple volcanoes. Results will aid emergency managers, local officials, and the public in educating at-risk populations and developing preparedness, mitigation, and recovery plans within and across communities.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variations in community exposure to lahar hazards from multiple volcanoes in Washington State (USA)
Series title Journal of Applied Volcanology
DOI 10.1186/s13617-015-0024-z
Volume 4
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer Nature
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 4, 14 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Glacier Peak, Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details