Many British Columbians are familiar with earthquake drills and have probably weathered a few major storms and floods in their lifetime, but are they aware of the dangers posed by a possible volcanic eruption?
That’s the question researchers at Simon Fraser University’s Center for Natural Hazards Research are trying to answer through an online survey open to residents of British Columbia aged 18 and older.
The 12 to 15 minute survey asks a series of questions to assess what people know about the location of volcanoes in British Columbia and the risks associated with an eruption. The survey is open until March 31, 2023.
There are several stratovolcanoes – of the type known for their explosive eruptions – in southern British Columbia, including Mount Garibaldi, the Mount Meager massif near Pemberton, and the nearby Mount Cayley volcanic field which extends from the field of ice from Pemberton to the Squamish River.
According to Melanie Kelman, a volcanologist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), the goal is for SFU researchers to find gaps in people’s knowledge to inform future educational resources.
“We really want to know what they know so we can give people the information they need,” Kelman said, speaking to The first edition Tuesday.
The first edition5:59The explosive truth about volcanoes in British Columbia
After centuries of inactivity, a volcano in the Alaska panhandle, about 450 kilometers northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, recently awoke.
Scientists have traced a swarm of minor earthquakes around Sitka, Alaska in 2020 to magma activity beneath Mount Edgecumbe (L’úx Shaa), about 450 kilometers northwest of Prince Rupert , British Columbia.
The City of Prince Rupert said its emergency personnel have been made aware of regional volcanic activity and have reviewed their emergency plans.
“At this point, there have been no local alerts or hazard watches issued for our area,” the city said in a statement to CBC News in November after a University of Alaska showed increased magma levels below Mount Edgecumbe.
The knowledge gathering work done at SFU will be used to inform a larger project being undertaken by Kelman and the GSC to create a risk assessment map and information tools.
A risk assessment, Kelman said, will need to consider lava flow, volcanic ash cover, debris flow and pyroclastic flow, which is a rapid current of volcanic material and hot gases that can reach speeds of several hundred kilometers per hour.
“The area where we have the most people near volcanoes that pose a higher threat is in southwestern British Columbia, but we have volcanoes around the province and they are threatening populations,” said Kelman.
“We really want to know what [people] know so we can give them the information they need,” she added.
According to Natural Resources Canada (NRC), there have been at least 49 volcanic eruptions in British Columbia and the Yukon over the past 10,000 years. The most recent eruption in Canada occurred in northwestern British Columbia about 150 years ago.
“The forces that produced these volcanoes are still active, and some of them will erupt again, although we don’t know when,” the NRC says on its website.