Exploring the factors that influence the perception of risk: The case of Volcán de Colima, Mexico

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Volume 186, Issue 3-4 (2009)




Volcán de Colim; risk; perception; hazard; risk management


Volcán de Colima has increased its activity considerably since 1998 with four periods of effusion and since 2003, daily Vulcanian explosions. During 2005 the magnitude of the explosivity increased, producing many pyroclastic flows, two of which reached over 5 km from the volcano, making them the largest events since the last Plinian eruption in 1913. A significant risk is also presented by the lahar hazard, with various examples of damage to infrastructure during the last few years and 23 people killed in 1955. Nearly 5000 people live in small settlements within 15 km of the volcano.

Since 1997 six studies have been carried out in the region in an attempt to define the relationship that exists between the population and its neighbour. Although the methodologies used were different, each study considered the results of the previous and attempted to contribute further data to define geographical variation in the perception of risk. The results of the studies highlight the minor role of increasing activity on risk perception, and distance from the volcano was shown to not directly influence risk perception. In most cases it is the combination of various socio-cultural, historical and political factors that defines the perception of volcanic risk within these villages.

By studying the social representation of the risk, such complexity could be better understood. The 1997–2000 information campaign evidently improved risk perception; however, it is clear that this type of program needs to be continued to achieve a long lasting impact. Increased knowledge, however, does not guarantee willing participation in official risk mitigation strategies.