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Analysing vulnerability to volcanic hazards: application to St. Vincent

Lowe, C.J.; (2010) Analysing vulnerability to volcanic hazards: application to St. Vincent. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Volcanology and volcanic risk assessment have in the past been strongly biased towards pure physical sciences and the study of hazard mechanisms. Traditional vulnerability analyses undertaken at volcanoes have focused on the vulnerability of buildings and the probabilities of loss of life given proximity to a volcanic hazard. These alone, however, cannot explain losses from historical volcanic eruptions. There is an additional strong vulnerability component to volcanic disasters that includes livelihoods, demographics of the population, and economic resources. This thesis reports research findings on vulnerability to volcanic hazards on the island of St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean. Four different methods are used to conduct a vulnerability analysis entailing: calculation of a Social Vulnerability Index, analysis of building vulnerability, creation of stakeholder mental maps, and evaluation of historical vulnerability. This mixed-method approach has been adopted as it combines both traditional quantitative methods with qualitative techniques. Only by applying such a range of methods at one location is one able to appraise the methods and compare the geography of the different elements of vulnerability captured. The results show that high levels of social and building vulnerability do not coincide, and that proximity to the threat was the most important variable identified by stakeholders. The historical analysis suggests that vulnerability on St. Vincent is a product of the island’s colonial history, and years of slavery, indentured labour, and the culture of migration for work and education abroad. It was determined that in the case of St. Vincent, no single method is able to capture all elements of vulnerability that are important to stakeholders. This research provides evidence of the need for context-specific vulnerability analyses that utilise a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, rather than the broad application of global standardised metrics.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Analysing vulnerability to volcanic hazards: application to St. Vincent
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Geography

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