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Rapid topographic change measured by high-resolution satellite radar at Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, 2008-2010

Wadge, G., Cole, P., Stinton, A., Komorowski, J.C., Stewart, R., Toombs, A.C. and Legendre, Y. (2011) Rapid topographic change measured by high-resolution satellite radar at Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, 2008-2010. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 199 (1-2). pp. 142-152. ISSN 0377-0273

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2010.10.011


High-resolution satellite radar observations of erupting volcanoes can yield valuable information on rapidly changing deposits and geomorphology. Using the TerraSAR-X (TSX) radar with a spatial resolution of about 2 m and a repeat interval of 11-days, we show how a variety of techniques were used to record some of the eruptive history of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat between July 2008 and February 2010. After a 15-month pause in lava dome growth, a vulcanian explosion occurred on 28 July 2008 whose vent was hidden by dense cloud. We were able to show the civil authorities using TSX change difference images that this explosion had not disrupted the dome sufficient to warrant continued evacuation. Change difference images also proved to be valuable in mapping new pyroclastic flow deposits: the valley-occupying block-and-ash component tending to increase backscatter and the marginal surge deposits reducing it, with the pattern reversing after the event. By comparing east- and west-looking images acquired 12 hours apart, the deposition of some individual pyroclastic flows can be inferred from change differences. Some of the narrow upper sections of valleys draining the volcano received many tens of metres of rockfall and pyroclastic flow deposits over periods of a few weeks. By measuring the changing shadows cast by these valleys in TSX images the changing depth of infill by deposits could be estimated. In addition to using the amplitude data from the radar images we also used their phase information within the InSAR technique to calculate the topography during a period of no surface activity. This enabled areas of transient topography, crucial for directing future flows, to be captured.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:17907
Uncontrolled Keywords:satellite radar images; topographic change; pyroclastic flow deposits; change detection; InSAR

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