Any effective volcanic risk mitigation strategy requires a scientific assessment of the future evolution of a volcanic system and its eruptive behavior. Some consider the onus should be on volcanologists to provide simple but emphatic deterministic forecasts. This traditional way of thinking, however, does not deal with the implications of inherent uncertainties, both aleatoric and epistemic, that are inevitably present in observations, monitoring data, and interpretation of any natural system. In contrast to deterministic predictions, probabilistic eruption forecasting attempts to quantify these inherent uncertainties utilizing all available information to the extent that it can be relied upon and is informative. As with many other natural hazards, probabilistic eruption forecasting is becoming established as the primary scientific basis for planning rational risk mitigation actions: at short-term (hours to weeks or months), it allows decision-makers to prioritize actions in a crisis; and at long-term (years to decades), it is the basic component for land use and emergency planning. Probabilistic eruption forecasting consists of estimating the probability of an eruption event and where it sits in a complex multidimensional time-space-magnitude framework. In this review, we discuss the key developments and features of models that have been used to address the problem. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
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