Explosive volcanism represents a key Earth process that transfers heat and mass from the Earth’s interior to the surface. Its products contribute constituents to global geochemical cycles, affecting the near surface geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions have the potential to cause loss of life, disrupt air traffic, impact the climate and significantly alter the surrounding landscape. Knowledge of magnitude-frequency relationships is poorly constrained at a majority of volcanoes but is key for assessing environmental and societal impacts of volcanism on global, regional and local scales. We have created a database of Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) to support these assessments and provide basic information on global explosive volcanism.
The LaMEVE database contains the nearly 3,000 Quaternary volcanoes catalogued by the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program and over 1,800 explosive eruption records spanning the last 1.8 My. Not all volcanoes currently have eruptions associated with them but have been included to allow for easy expansion of the database as more data are found. The ultimate objective is to go back to the start of the Quaternary at its current definition of 2.58 Ma, but at present the database is limited to the previous definition of 1.8 Ma.
The database, accessible online at http://www.bgs.ac.uk/vogripa, primarily consists of data on eruption magnitude, age and source volcano location. The data were collected from published literature; principally Volcanoes of the World by Siebert et al. (2010) and journal articles, but also other online databases, books, public reports, conference proceedings, etc. This database should be of particular interest to volcanology researchers, hazard modellers and civil authorities responsible for crisis management.
There are 3 criteria an eruption must satisfy in order to be included in the database:
It must be magnitude (M) (Pyle, 2000) or VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) (Newhall and Self, 1982) of 4 or above.
It must be from a known source volcano.
The database also contains information on deposit type, deposit volumes, eruption intensity, rock type classification, data errors and uncertainties with indices of data reliability. The database is currently restricted to larger magnitude eruptions because they have large hazard footprints that can threaten large populations. They are difficult to predict and occur less frequently than smaller eruptions. Some of the largest historic eruptions occur at volcanoes presumed dormant; as such, preparation and response are often poor. These larger eruptions are typically responsible for the greatest loss of life in the historical period (Siebert et al., 2010, pp. 41).
There exist two other databases similar in scope to LaMEVE: that of the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program (GVP, http://www.volcano.si.edu; Siebert et al. 2010) and the database by Mason et al. (2004) with eruptions of M≥8. LaMEVE, however, is distinctly different from these two. The database maintained by the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program is the leading source of global information on volcanic eruptions at all magnitude scales; however, it currently focuses on Holocene eruptions (the last 10,000 years). Analysis of large magnitude eruptions over this timescale has shown that this is an insufficient amount of time for adequate sampling of the largest eruptions (M>6.5) (Deligne et al., 2010). The database of Mason et al. (2004) concentrated on the very largest magnitude eruptions, which are considered to have the greatest potential for global repercussions. LaMEVE covers all eruptions of M≥4, as these eruptions still have the capacity to cause considerable regional and local disruption.
LaMEVE is the first component of the VOGRIPA (Volcanic Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project) database of volcanic hazards, which is being developed as part of the Global Volcano Model (GVM, http://www.globalvolcanomodel.org). The long-term aim of GVM is to have a global source of freely available information on volcanic hazards and volcanism produced to agreed standards and protocols.
This article discusses the structure and fields of the LaMEVE database, including its links with other databases, some of the difficulties encountered whilst constructing the database, how these issues were dealt with, perceived uses, and planned future developments. The paper also outlines planned steps to make the database accessible as well as further development ideas, including the ability for the scientific community to add new data.