Evaluating suitability of a tephra dispersal model as part of a risk assessment framework

Gordon N. Keating, Jon D. Pelletier, Greg A. Valentine, William Statham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In volcanic risk assessment it is necessary to determine the appropriate level of sophistication for a given predictive model within the contexts of multiple sources of uncertainty and coupling between models. A component of volcanic risk assessment for the proposed radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain (Nevada, USA) involves prediction of dispersal of contaminated tephra during violent Strombolian eruptions and the subsequent transport of that tephra toward a hypothetical individual via surface processes. We test the suitability of a simplified model for volcanic plume transport and fallout tephra deposition (ASHPLUME) coupled to a surface sediment-transport model (FAR) that calculates the redistribution of tephra, and in light of inherent uncertainties in the system. The study focuses on two simplifying assumptions in the ASHPLUME model: 1) constant eruptive column height and 2) constant wind speed and direction during an eruption. Variations in tephra dispersal resulting from unsteady column height and wind conditions produced variations up to a factor of two in the concentration of tephra in sediment transported to the control population. However, the effects of watershed geometry and terrain, which control local remobilization of tephra, overprint sensitivities to eruption parameters. Because the combination of models used here shows limited sensitivity to the actual details of ash fall, a simple fall model suffices to estimate tephra mass delivered to the hypothetical individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 25 2008


  • numerical modeling
  • risk assessment
  • surficial processes
  • tephra dispersal
  • tephra redistribution
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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