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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 (, 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. 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
PhD student Davit Manucharyan began an extended stay at the University of South Florida in July 2015 to continue his work on numerical simulations of volcanic hazards and study codes. Davit has received a PhD fellowship at USF, with the U.S. partner on this project, Dr. Charles Connor, serving as his adviser. This will serve to strengthen linkages between the Armenian and U.S. institutions and make their joint research on volcanism and hazards more effective, not only in facilitating the current collaborative project but also in promoting future studies of volcanic hazards and the education of young researchers in this field of science in Armenia. In addition, September 17-21, 2015, Dr. Meliksetian and his group organized the second PEER Science Workshop on Volcanic Hazards at the Institute of Geological Sciences of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. The workshop included one day of presentations and four days of field work. Besides IGS staff and students, the workshop featured several foreign participants, including colleagues from the University of Leeds, UK (Dr. Ivan Savov and PhD student Patrick Sugden) and the University of Keele, UK (Dr. Ralf Halama and Master’s student Krzysztof Sokół). The project is now in its final stage, and the PI and his group are working on their technical report and future publications, as well as recommendations to state policymakers. Dr. Meliksetian plans to visit USF in early 2016 to work with Dr. Connor on finalizing the report.

Links to Recent Publications

Abstract presented at the European Geophysical Union conference in Vienna April 12-18, 2015

Article on development of a conceptual model of volcanism for the Ararat valley region, published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Armenia Partnership Picture B
An outcrop of argavand lava in the Hrazdan River Gorge near Yerevan (Photo courtesy Dr. Meliksetian)
2-323 Team in the Mountains
Krzysztof Sokół, Ivan Savov, Patrick Sugden, and Khachatur Meliksetian during the September 2015 workshop. (Photo courtesy Dr. Meliksetian)
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