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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Volcanic hazard assessment of the Ararat Valley, Armenia

PI: Khachatur Meliksetian (Institute of Geological Sciences, Armenian National Academy of Sciences) 
U.S. Partner: Charles Connor (University of South Florida)
Project Dates: August 2013 to April 2016
 

 Uganda Partnership Picture A
A look at the Vayk region adjacent to the Ararat Valley. The Smbatasar volcano (rear) dates back to the Holocene Age. A lava flow is present in the left front (Photo courtesy Dr. Meliksetian).

Armenia is situated in a region of copious Quaternary-Holocene-Historical volcanism, and its capital, Yerevan, the capital, is located in the Ararat Valley, adjacent to the foothills of the Gegham upland and the Aragats and Ararat volcanoes. Geologic evidence indicates the possibility of future volcanic eruptions from one or more of these volcanic systems. When such eruptions occur, Yerevan and surrounding areas will be at significant risk from a variety of volcanic phenomena and accompanying seismic activity, yet to date there have been no analyses of this risk. This project aims to undertake systematic geological and probabilistic studies developed with U.S. colleagues. The scientific goal is to link geologic observations of the products of volcanic eruptions (volcanic ash deposits, lava flows, and pyroclastic density currents) with numerical simulations of volcanic eruptions. The previous work of the Armenian researchers involved has shown that magmas in this region erupt at higher temperature and with fewer volatiles than most magmas on Earth, due to the plate tectonic setting. This means that the rheology of the magma is significantly different and these differences must be accounted for in hazard models. Their research will therefore not only result in a robust hazard assessment for the Ararat Valley, including Yerevan, but will also be a significant test of hazard models used around the world. 
 
The ultimate aim of this project is to improve all natural hazard assessment in Armenia, and make Armenia a regional locus for this type of natural hazard assessment, which is critical to virtually every nation in the region. One of the major tasks for this project is to involve the Armenian research team in a currently active cyberinfrastructure project (VHub.org, funded by NSF award number 0940839) related to volcanic hazard code development. The idea is to incorporate Armenian volcanism into the VHub project, share volcanic hazard modelling codes with the Armenian team, and train personnel, including young scientists, to use and apply the codes for assessing volcanic hazards in Armenia. VHub.org resources will be utilized and additional VHub tools developed to simulate specific phenomena, such as volcanic ash fallout and lava flows, used to estimate the probability that such phenomena would affect the Ararat Valley. The team will also develop recommendations for policymakers concerning volcanic hazards in the region. These recommendations may include topics of public education and outreach based on project results, recommendations about volcano monitoring, including the need for international collaborative efforts to monitor the Ararat volcano system, development of guidelines for development of emergency response to volcano crises, and dissemination of results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
 
Summary of Recent Activities
 
Dr. Meliksetian and his colleagues and students continued to update their volcanological database for their entire region during the first quarter of 2015. In January they sent some Armenian volcanic rock samples to the geochronology lab at the University of Oregon for dating using the Ar-Ar method. They also continue to develop recommendations for policymakers such as the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority concerning volcanic hazards that could impact the technological infrastructure in the region. On the infrastructural capacity building side, the petrographical microscope purchased earlier with PEER funds was delivered duty-free thanks to supporting documents provided by the USAID mission in Armenia. When the vendor’s representatives installed the microscope, they found that some of the modules delivered were not as ordered due to an error by their company. However, they agreed to provide the correct components without additional charge, and Dr. Meliksetian expects delivery by June 2015 so that petrographic analysis of his team’s volcanic rock samples can proceed.

In collaboration with U.S. partner Dr. Charles Connor, the team submitted an abstract for the European Geophysical Union conference in Vienna April 12-18, 2015. Recently the group has also published a 15-page article on development of a conceptual model of volcanism for the Ararat valley region in one of the leading scientific journals in their field, the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. This summer, a PhD student working on the project, Hripsime Gevorgyan, will participate in the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics conference in Prague in June, where she will present a paper on Armenian Quaternary age explosive volcanism and ignimbrites that incorporates elements of her research undertaken in the framework of the PEER project.
 
   Armenia Partnership Picture B
An outcrop of argavand lava in the Hrazdan River Gorge near Yerevan (Photo courtesy Dr. Meliksetian)
   Armenia Partnership Picture C
An outcrop of Yerevan-leninakan ignimbrite covered by young Tirinkatar lava in vicinity of the village of Nor Edessia (Photo courtesy Dr. Meliksetian)
 
 
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