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Joel Gill's fieldwork in Guatemala

Posted on 27/02/2014
Volcano Santiaguito

Joel Gill has been undertaking fieldwork for his PhD research in Guatemala since mid-January 2014. Here we give an update on his experiences so far and plans for the remaining time:

Research being undertaken by Joel Gill, alongside his supervisors Professor Bruce D. Malamud and Professor Mark Pelling, aims to improve multi-hazard approaches to assessing natural hazards, through increasing the understanding of hazard interactions at global, national and local scales. Current fieldwork in Guatemala is supporting this research through contrasting hazard interaction networks as identified and understood by different stakeholder groups (e.g., local hazard professionals and communities).

Guatemala is a country prone to multiple natural hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, droughts, ground collapse, tropical storms and hurricanes, significant temperature variations and wildfires. Furthermore, anthropogenic activity (including deforestation and urbanisation) places a number of stresses on the natural environment, exacerbating natural hazards. The presence of multiple overlapping hazard distributions within Guatemala results in many hazard interactions.

Over the past few weeks Joel has spent time with academics, PhD researchers and MSc Volcanology students from the University of Bristol, travelling around Guatemala to observe many of these hazards first-hand. This exploration of hazards took him to a number of key locations, including: 

Over the past few weeks Joel has spent time with academics, PhD researchers and MSc Volcanology students from the University of Bristol, travelling around Guatemala to observe many of these hazards first-hand. This exploration of hazards took him to a number of key locations, including: 

  • Volcano Pacaya – the location of a classic interacting hazards case study where a tropical storm and volcanic eruption coincided spatially and temporally to trigger many mudflows, lahars, subsidence and flooding events. 
  • Volcano Fuego – a currently erupting volcano, associated with pyroclastic flows and lahars that exacerbate flooding further along the river basin.
  • Panabaj – a town in a high-relief area of Guatemala, destroyed by a hurricane-triggered landslide in 2005.
  • Volcano Santiaguito – another currently erupting volcano, associated with lahars that have impacted the nearby town of El Palmar, with subsequent river erosion creating a valley within the town.

This reconnaissance work has helped to better understand a number of issues relating to spatial and temporal scales of hazards in Guatemala, relative importance of secondary and tertiary hazards, and issues relating to societal and individual vulnerability. 

The next stage of fieldwork, where Joel has been joined by Professor Bruce D. Malamud, includes research into interacting hazard case studies (exploring archival records) and a series of interviews and workshops. It is hoped that these will allow local/regional expertise to help us better understand hazard interactions within finer spatial scales (national and local), and the contrasting of hazard interaction networks as identified and understood by different stakeholder groups.

You can read more about aspects of Joel’s trip and view a range of photographs by following the ‘Geology for Global Development’ blog - http://blogs.egu.eu/gfgd/category/guatemala/

     

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