Context and objectives

Since 2010, the “Programmes d’Investissements d’Avenir” (PIA) have allowed major investments with the aim to guarantee that research in France is placed at the forefront of innovation. Among the projects supported by the French Government, the “Laboratoires d’Excellence” (LabEx) have had the role of building an integrated strategy for research, education and dissemination at the highest international level. This strategy has also permitted to strengthen some specific sites (i.e. “Pôles de Compétitivités”) in order to improve and consolidate the international visibility and appeal of the French scientific community.

The PIA strategy has permitted to structure several major programs that include the study of volcanic emissions and volcanic plumes like the LabEx ClerVolc (‘Centre Clermontois de Recherche sur le Volcanisme’, Clermont-Ferrand), the LabEx VOLTAIRE (‘VOLatils – Terre, Atmosphère et Interactions – Ressources et Environnement’, Orléans) or the LabEx UnivEarthS (Geosciences and astrophysics, Paris).

In parallel, the French CNRS-INSU has built and coordinated the research communities working on volcanic plumes and emissions through the “Services Nationaux d’Observation” (i.e. SNO-ANO-1; SNO CLAP; I-3 NDACC). Some projects have also started thanks to the support of LEFE CNRS (INSU) or to the TOSCA (CNES).

The aim of the Groupement de Recherche Européen “MIST” (Group for the Modeling, Imaging, Sensing and Tracing volcanic plumes) is to build a new frame to dynamically link French communities and some key European partners having different expertises but sharing a common interest on volcanic emissions and their dispersion from the local to the global scale. Recent research programs funded by the French National Research Agency (e.g. ANR – STRAP: Synergie Transdisciplinaire pour Répondre aux Aléas liés aux Panaches volcaniques – ANR 2014-2019; Tulet et al., 2017) have clearly demonstrated the added value of transdisciplinary scientific and technical collaboration for the study of the impact of volcanic emissions and the need of developing an integrated approach to better link the volcanic sources to the regional/global dispersion of volcanic plumes.

In addition, at European level, through ENVRIplus, scientists from different countries have the opportunities (through free-of-charge trans-national access (TNA)) to access to ETNA-INGV and Piton de la Fournaise (OSUR sites) to perform multi-disciplinary projects.

The project of GDRE MIST is focused on volcanic plumes with the aim to improve our understanding of the source, transport and impact (on health, environment, air traffic and climate) of volcanic emissions. Our ambition is to contribute to the long-term structure of the national French scientific communities and to its transnational positioning at European and international level by taking advantage of the already existing national structures like LabEx and SNO. At the European scale, MIST will facilitate and strengthen the collaboration with key reference communities by supporting high level international cooperation to observe and model volcanic plumes. The main target of our project will be the frequently active European volcanoes like Piton de la Fournaise, Etna, Stromboli and other Icelandic volcanoes and results of MIST will contribute to a better management of future eruptions of explosive European volcanoes like Vesuvius or la Montagne Pelée and la Soufrière de Guadeloupe in the Lesser Antilles. In order to attain these targets, the MIST “community” will build a research and funding strategy at both national (ANR) and European levels (e.g. H2020; FP9; ERC).

Research performed by French laboratories has produced major jumps forward in our understanding of volcanic processes and volcanic plume formation and dispersion, and on their environmental and societal impact. This research has produced new concepts, theories and instruments. This rich background permit to envisage the acquisition of high quality multi-disciplinary datasets with high spatial and time resolution from in situ and remote sensing measurements. On one side, the acquisition and the interpretation of complex datasets on natural systems require an innovative and transdisciplinary approach. On the other side, we need to support the development of a virtuous circle to guarantee a continuous link between observation, experiments and modeling and in order to nourish both the evolution of basic knowledge and to answer efficiently to major societal and economic issues.

The GDRE MIST has three main objectives: (i) to develop innovative researches, (ii) to contribute to key economic and societal issues (e.g. global climate change, air quality, health, atmosphere composition, natural hazard, impact on air traffic) and (iii) to strengthen communication and interaction among reference institutions in these fields at the French and European levels.

The approach supported and developed by the GDRE MIST will aim at (i) making the most of the cutting edge knowledge and methods currently available at French national level and in each research domain, (ii) identifying major knowledge, methodological and technical gaps and (iii) facilitating the transfer of knowledge obtained at any level (e.g. results obtained in the context of international initiatives like SPARC or DEEPCARBON or by exercises like « Ruaumoko » and « Mesimex ») towards the transnational operational level (VAAC ; European Volcanological Observatories). Knowledge transfer towards the operational level is a major target of the GDRE MIST as the nine VAACs have been designated by the International Civil Aviation Organization to provide their expertise to civil aviation in case of potentially hazardous volcanic eruptions. At the French national level, the Météo-France VAAC is responsible for the zone including a large part of the Eurasian continent and Africa, and may hence directly benefit from the work of the GDRE.

This new research cluster will benefit the French transdisciplinary community on volcanic plumes by contributing to his strengthening and by improving his success in national, transnational (European) and international competitions. Our GDRE project aims at providing transdisciplinary answers to the current and growing expectations for a better link between research and society. The GDRE MIST will represent a national reference group to provide expertise and data to respond the needs of national research communities and of the European society related to volcanic plumes.