DEVORADetermining Volcanic Risk in Auckland

Mount Eden volcano Auckland city

This transdisciplinary research programme assesses volcanic hazards and risks in the Auckland metropolitan area and provides data and rationale to inform risk mitigation strategies.


Led by volcanologists at GNS Science and the University of Auckland, Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland (DEVORA) is a collaborative programme involving a wide variety of organisations and researchers, including Auckland Council, the Earthquake Commission and Auckland Emergency Management.

The programme aims to

  • recognise patterns and precursors that signal an impending eruption
  • identify the biggest threats locally and nationally from future Auckland eruptions
  • support the development of risk-management, preparedness, response and recovery plans
  • educate the public so that our diverse society trusts and understands our science and knows how to behave appropriately in a volcanic crisis

To achieve these objectives, we are

  • gathering data to explain magma movement to the surface in the Auckland Volcanic Field
  • studying past eruptions
  • combining the above with information on Auckland’s built and social environment to predict and describe the effects of an eruption
  • developing scenarios and probabilistic tools to help planners prepare for future eruptions and help emergency personnel make decisions before, during, and after an eruption
  • presenting our findings to other scientists, stakeholders, and the public in a clear and concise manner tailored to the intended audience

The project

Auckland's volcanic landscape

Within the DEVORA programme, we are gathering data to explain how, why, how often and how fast magma moves to the surface in the Auckland Volcanic Field. Our interdisciplinary research spans the fields of Earth, Geophysics, Social, Hazard and Risk science.

Here are some examples of our research:

  • we use cores from maar craters in our volcanoes to refine estimates of eruption frequency
  • we study the mantle and crustal dynamics that control the scale of local eruptions
  • we estimate the volume of and speed of magma rise and eruption
  • we study improvements in how we might monitor our volcanic field, such as integrating our seismic sensors into the GeoNet platform
  • we study the impacts of possible future eruptions and mitigation strategies that can improve planning and resilience

Wider hazards

We study the timing, size, location, and deposits of past eruptions to look for patterns and to identify the threats to Auckland from future eruptions. We are also interested in related hazards that could be caused by eruptions, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and fires.

Our research includes:

  • modelling the damage potential and extent of future eruptions
  • reconstructing the flow dynamics and destructive potential during an eruption
  • identifying and understanding buried faults in the Auckland Volcanic Field

Response and recovery

Knowing the likely hazards associated with a future eruption enables us to determine potential impacts. Assigning a probability to these impacts is a way of expressing volcanic risk. From this, we are able to design disaster scenarios. These scenarios allow us to plan emergency responses (like evacuation plans) and make land use and economic recovery plans.

For example, post-eruption recovery will require mitigating the damage caused by volcanic ash (tephra). Tephra settling on paved surfaces poses a major road safety hazard. We have modelled the potential impact of tephra deposits on transport infrastructure and network users and how tephra can lower the skid resistance of road asphalt and airfield concrete. We have also modelled the clean-up requirements in urban environments under different scenarios.

Communication and education

A major aim of DEVORA is to communicate our science effectively. We publish our findings regularly in reports and peer-reviewed journals and host the annual DEVORA Forum, which brings together research and stakeholder organizations to discuss the latest Auckland Volcanic Field research.

To communicate with the public, we conduct surveys to identify key gaps in public knowledge and preparedness. We develop fact sheets and information resources. We use role-play to teach crisis communication, eruption forecasting and volcanic hazard and emergency management concepts.

To communicate with students, our outreach team regularly visits community groups, schools and STEM fairs. We engage with students through hands-on activities and experiments. We also have a collection of freely available resources for schools and teachers, including experiment manuals and printable fact sheets.

Leonard Graham 2545

Graham Leonard Natural Hazard and Risk Theme Leader

Graham is a Principal Scientist within the Earth Structure and Processes Department. His particular research interests are in Taupo Volcanic Zone volcanic mapping; New Zealand volcanic geology, stratigraphy and geochronology; developing effective response to warning systems, especially for volcanic, tsunami & landslide/debris-flow processes; and quantifying/characterising & mitigating the impacts of natural hazard events.

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Research programme details

Collaborators: Auckland Council; Earthquake Commission; GNS Science; University of Auckland; Auckland Emergency Management; GeoNet; Auckland Council Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group; Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority; Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management; International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN); Auckland Lifelines Group, and its subgroup, the Volcanic Impacts Study Group; QuakeCore: NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience


6 November 2008 – present

Funding platform




Programme leaders

Dr Graham Leonard, GNS Science
Dr Craig Miller, GNS Science
Professor Jan Lindsay, University of Auckland


Auckland Council, Earthquake Commission, GNS Science, University of Auckland

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