MUDFLOW TERROR: LAHARS (VOLCANIC DEBRIS FLOWS)

  Agbor Taku Junior    May 1, 2019    0

Lahars are also known as volcanic mudflows.  These are slopes that originate on the slopes of vocanoes and are a type of debris flow. A lahar mobilizes the loose accumulations of tephra( the airborne solids erupted from the volcano) and related debris.



 

Occurrence

Found in nearly all volcanic areas of the world.

Relative size/range

Lahars can be hundreds of square kilometers or miles in area and can become larger as they gain speed and accumulate debris as they travel downslope; or, they can be small in volume and affect limited areas of the volcano and then dissipate downslope.

Velocity of travel

Lahars can be very rapid (more than 35 miles per hour or 50 kilometers per hour) especially if they mix with a source of water such as melting snowfields or glaciers. If they are viscous and thick with debris and less water, the movement will be slow to moderately slow.

Triggering mechanism

Water is the primary triggering mechanism, and it can originate from crater lakes, condensation of erupted steam on volcano particles, or the melting of snow and ice at the top of high volcanoes. Some of the largest and most deadly lahars have originated from eruptions or volcanic venting which suddenly melts surrounding snow and ice and causes rapid liquefaction and flow down steep volcanic slopes at catastrophic speeds.

Effects (direct/indirect)

Effects can be extremely large and devastating, especially when triggered by a volcanic eruption and consequent rapid melting of any snow and ice—the flow can bury human settlements located on the volcano slopes. Some large flows can also dam rivers, causing flooding upstream. Subsequent breaching of these weakly cemented dams can

cause catastrophic flooding downstream. This type of landslide often results in large numbers of human casualties.

Mitigation measures

No corrective measures are known that can be taken to prevent damage from lahars except for avoidance by not building or locating in their paths or on the slopes of volcanoes. Warning systems and subsequent evacuation work in some instances may save lives. However, warning systems require active monitoring, and a reliable evacuation method is essential.



Predictability

Susceptibility maps based on past occurrences of lahars can be constructed, as well asrunout estimations of potential flows. Such maps are not readily available for most hazardous areas.







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