Review of the BGS myVolcano iPhone app

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

A few months ago, Elspeth posted a review of her top geology-themed mobile phone apps. Since then, the resourceful folk at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have come up with a new contender; here we take a look at myVolcano.

Any self-respecting app needs a jazzy icon. Photo credit: myVolcano/British Geological Survey

Before we get started, the important details: myVolcano is free to download but is only currently available on Apple’s iOS (an Android version is in the pipeline). You can download it here.

The main driver behind the app is to allow the BGS to collect data about volcanic hazards through observations made by the general public. This concept is known as citizen science, and is becoming increasingly useful to researchers. For example, the USGS and the BGS have webpages where anybody can submit details if they experience an earth tremor; the results are then made openly available as ‘Felt location maps’. In the same way, myVolcano is built to allow you to submit observations about volcanic hazards and ashfall.

Screenshots of the myVolcano interface on iOS 7. Photo credit: Charly Stamper/British Geological Survey

The app interface itself is refreshingly sleek and intuitive to use. All the app’s features centre around a map that is populated with entries from the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program databse. That’s a huge amount of data (1,550 volcanoes and 10,000 years of eruptions, to be precise) made freely available at your fingertips. Each volcano entry features a geological background, details of the last known eruption and a photo.

Screenshots from the myVolcano app. From L-R: Excellent demonstration of the ‘Ring of Fire'; example of a database entry; example of a user submitted observation. Photo credit: Charly Stamper/British Geological Survey

Now, for those of us living in the UK, the chances of us witnessing volcanic phenomena at home are pretty rare; however, it is not uncommon for ash particles from distant eruptions to settle on our shores (e.g., ashfall from Eyjafjallajökull, 2010, was recorded as far south as the Midlands). Data from such distal deposits can be used by geologists to help understand how ash plumes travel and disperse. myVolcano talks you through how to submit measurements and photos of just such an ash fall. This record is then plotted on the world map using the GPS on your phone and can be viewed by other users of the app.

In truth, it’s worth downloading this app purely to access the Smithsonian database on your phone. Whether the citizen science aspect of myVolcano really takes off remains to be seen…where’s that simmering Icelandic volcano when you need it?

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About Charly Stamper

I’m an ex-experimental petrologist.
I used to make pretend volcanoes; now I work in renewable energy

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