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The costs of volcano monitoring: funding the Alaska Volcano Observatory (also, Auckland’s cones need more cash) 16 February 2010

Posted by admin in Auckland, New Zealand, volcanoes.
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Volcano monitoring is a vital service, but who pays? In Alaska budget for the Alaska Volcano Observatory is the focus of current debate. The AVO – which, surely, resoundingly proved its value to everyone during the Redoubt eruption of 2009 – has seen its funding fall dramatically with the loss of those unreliable short-term things Americans call ‘earmarks’:

Congress in recent years has provided annual earmarks through the Federal Aviation Administration for the observatory, which is cited as a key contributor to aviation safety in Alaska. But those earmarks have dried up, and total funding for the observatory has fallen from $8 million per year to $5 million, prompting the state Department of Natural Resources to propose a $300,000 contribution this year to help.

As a result it’s been suggested that airlines and freight companies could pay a levy towards the costs of running AVO, the argument presumably being that these business sectors benefit directly from the monitoring and warning services provided by the observatory. [UPDATE: see Dr Erik Klemetti’s remarks on this at Eruptions.]

Recently we saw the Russian volcano monitoring network KVERT hit the buffers when the money ran out (although a temporary fix has now been put in place): it would be deeply unfortunate, to say the least, if the AVO’s vital monitoring system on the other side of the Bering Strait were to encounter similar difficulties.

Meanwhile, in not unrelated news from New Zealand: getting the necessary cash together to look after Auckland’s volcanic cones properly is proving a problem. Local people want ‘good footpaths, good stormwater protection and a clean, green experience on the cones’, but councillors have refused to reinstate a long-term volcanic protection budget worth NZ$8 million, leaving the cones with a ‘pitiful and downright disrespectful’ NZ$457,000 to live on.

The Volcanism Blog