Vulnerability of critical infrastructure to volcanic hazards
Thesis DisciplineGeological Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Volcanic eruptions produce a range of concurrent, sequential and recurrent hazards which can impact society and critical infrastructure. For daily activities, modern societies are reliant on dependable functioning critical infrastructure, such as electrical supply; water supply; wastewater; transportation; communication networks; buildings; air conditioning and ventilation systems; and electronic equipment. In addition, during volcanic eruptions these sectors are vital for effective emergency response and recovery. Despite the importance of critical infrastructure, the systematic quantification of their vulnerability to volcanic hazards, a key aspect of volcanic risk management, has received little research attention. Successful volcanic risk management and disaster risk reduction are cost effective investments in preventing future losses during eruptions and increasing resilience to volcanic hazard impacts. Effective volcanic risk management requires the characterisation of both hazards and vulnerabilities to the same level of detail.
This thesis develops a methodological framework to quantitatively assess the vulnerability of critical infrastructure sectors to volcanic hazard impacts. The focus is on fragility and vulnerability functions which provide quantitative relationships between impact (damage and disruption) and volcanic hazard intensity. The framework details how post-eruption infrastructure impact data, compiled in a newly established infrastructure impacts database, can be classified by hazard and impact intensity to derive vulnerability and fragility functions. Using the vulnerability framework, fragility functions for several critical infrastructure sectors for volcanic tephra fall impacts are derived. These functions are the first attempt to quantify the vulnerability of critical infrastructure sectors using a systematic approach. Using these fragility functions, risk is estimated for the electrical transmission network in the North Island of New Zealand using a newly developed probabilistic tephra fall hazard assessment.
This thesis and framework provide a pathway forward for volcanic risk scientists to advance volcanic vulnerability assessments such that comprehensive and robust quantitative volcanic risk assessments are commonplace in infrastructure management practices. Improved volcanic vulnerability and risk assessments leads to enhanced risk-based decision making, prioritisation of risk reduction investment and overall reduction in volcanic risk.