Validating Cellular Automata Lava Flow Emplacement Algorithms with Standard Benchmarks

Document Type

Poster Session

Publication Date



A major existing need in assessing lava flow simulators is a common set of validation benchmark tests. We propose three levels of benchmarks which test model output against increasingly complex standards. First, imulated lava flows should be morphologically identical, given changes in parameter space that should be inconsequential, such as slope direction. Second, lava flows simulated in simple parameter spaces can be tested against analytical solutions or empirical relationships seen in Bingham fluids. For instance, a lava flow simulated on a flat surface should produce a circular outline. Third, lava flows simulated over real world topography can be compared to recent real world lava flows, such as those at Tolbachik, Russia, and Fogo, Cape Verde.

Success or failure of emplacement algorithms in these validation benchmarks can be determined using a Bayesian approach, which directly tests the ability of an emplacement algorithm to correctly forecast lava inundation. Here we focus on two posterior metrics, P(A|B) and P(¬A|¬B), which describe the positive and negative predictive value of flow algorithms. This is an improvement on less direct statistics such as model sensitivity and the Jaccard fitness coefficient.

We have performed these validation benchmarks on a new, modular lava flow emplacement simulator that we have developed. This simulator, which we call MOLASSES, follows a Cellular Automata (CA) method. The code is developed in several interchangeable modules, which enables quick modification of the distribution algorithm from cell locations to their neighbors. By assessing several different distribution schemes with the benchmark tests, we have improved the performance of MOLASSES to correctly match early stages of the 2012-3 Tolbachik Flow, Kamchakta Russia, to 80%. We also can evaluate model performance given uncertain input parameters using a Monte Carlo setup. This illuminates sensitivity to model uncertainty.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Presented at the AGU Fall Meeting on December 15, 2015 in San Francisco, CA