What's in a map? communicating natural hazard forecasts.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The number of people suffering from natural disasters, and the economic impact of those disasters, continue to increase as the years go by. Better preparation and risk management strategies can help lessen the impacts of these disasters. One important aspect of risk management is risk assessment, which can be accomplished with a hazard map. One application of hazard maps is to forecast volcanic ashfall following an eruption to help people and organisations prepare themselves for, and mitigate the detrimental impacts of, volcanic ashfall. This research evaluated the key elements of a hazard map and how to make a hazard map most effective through the study of short-term ashfall forecast maps in New Zealand. A mixed-methods approach was taken for this research. Interviews were conducted with scientists at GNS and stakeholders who use the ashfall forecast maps. After the data from the interviews was analysed, an internet-based survey was created and sent out to anyone interested in participating. The survey served as a low-resolution verification of the high-resolution data gathered in the interviews. After each stage of information gathering, the ashfall forecast map design was updated. This research found that there are seven basic elements which should be considered when creating a hazard map. These elements are: simplicity of the map, base map, map scale, the use of colour, geographical information, the inclusion of uncertainty, and time. This research also found key lessons which can be applied to any hazard map creation process. These lessons are: established practices should be revaluated periodically, communication between the information provider and the enduser is critical, the information provider must decide between satisfying the individual or the group, education and outreach are important, audience feedback is necessary for an effective map, and that hazard maps are just one step in the risk mitigation process.