Flavours of volcanic activity in Guatemala and the hazards they present. Matt Watson, University of Bristol

The Peel Lecture Theatre in Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol was packed for the kick-off talk in the GA Autumn Series, with schools from Bristol, Bath, Chepstow, Weston-super-Mare represented.

Proceedings started with a brief presentation on ‘Applying for Geography and Geology at University’. Dr. David Richards reinforced the advantages that these fields of study have in terms of diversity of material, relevance to society and enabling individuals to make a difference in the future. Recognising the full spectrum of material from the natural sciences to human (non-human) geography, one should consider the variety of pathways and degree programmes at UWE, Bristol and elsewhere, depending on your interests. Consider year abroad programmes – increasingly popular. Also, make sure you visit your options – both open days and post-offer visit days.

Contrasting risks for different populations in the vicinity of Volcán de Fuego.


Next up was the main act: Dr Matt Watson, from the School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol. He is the Director of the MSc Volcanology at Bristol. Matt is concerned with hazards, risks and uncertainties, mostly volcano-related. He also involved in projects to consider stratospheric aerosol injection and geoengineering.

Matt has a long been involved in monitoring volcanoes in Guatemala and elsewhere across the globe. We were fortunate to get a great insight into the latest events, including impacts to aviation and also vulnerable communities in the vicinity of active volcanoes. We learned of the different risks posed by lahars, pyroclastic flows, and clouds of volcanic ash. A Bristol-Cambridge team (earth scientist and engineers) have visited the site of Volcán de Fuego with drones (see link). These unmanned aerial vehicles are low-cost and can provide valuable information on the extent of risk, and also direct high temporal resolution evidence from within volcanic ash cloud.

Big crowd at the GA talk. Only a few spare seats to be had.

Not only were we presented with great science, but first-hand experience engaging with local communities. The use of video footage and structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry were illustrated.

Dr. Matt Watson fields some great questions from the crowd about the politics and practicalities of response to hazard in Guatemala.


Our thanks to Matt for a great talk. The audience were most appreciative and there was quite the buzz after questions.

Applause from the crowd. Great talk appreciated by by students and staff from 12 local schools.

School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol.

Posted in Lectures