Pooling strength amongst limited datasets using hierarchical Bayesian analysis, with application to pyroclastic density current mobility metrics

Sarah Ogburn, James Berger, Eliza Calder, Danilo Lopez, Abani Patra, E. Bruce Pitman, Regis Rutarindwa, Elaine T. Spiller, Robert L. Wolpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In volcanology, the sparsity of datasets for individual volcanoes is an important problem, which, in many cases, compromises our ability to make robust judgments about future volcanic hazards. In this contribution we develop a method for using hierarchical Bayesian analysis of global datasets to combine information across different volcanoes and to thereby improve our knowledge at individual volcanoes. The method is applied to the assessment of mobility metrics for pyroclastic density currents in order to better constrain input parameters and their related uncertainties for forward modeling. Mitigation of risk associated with such flows depends upon accurate forecasting of possible inundation areas, often using empirical models that rely on mobility metrics measured from the deposits of past flows, or on the application of computational models, several of which take mobility metrics, either directly or indirectly, as input parameters. We use hierarchical Bayesian modeling to leverage the global record of mobility metrics from the FlowDat database, leading to considerable improvement in the assessment of flow mobility where the data for a particular volcano is sparse. We estimate the uncertainties involved and demonstrate how they are improved through this approach. The method has broad applicability across other areas of volcanology where relationships established from broader datasets can be used to better constrain more specific, sparser, datasets. Employing such methods allows us to use, rather than shy away from, limited datasets, and allows for transparency with regard to uncertainties, enabling more accountable decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStatistics in Volcanology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2016

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