Understanding the characteristics of volcanic thermal emissions and how they change with time is important for forecasting and monitoring volcanic activity and potential hazards. Satellite instruments view volcanic thermal features across the globe at various temporal and spatial resolutions. Thermal features that may be a precursor to a major eruption, or indicative of important changes in an on-going eruption can be subtle, making them challenging to reliably identify with satellite instruments. The goal of this study was to explore the limits of the types and magnitudes of thermal anomalies that could be detected using satellite thermal infrared (TIR) data. Specifically, the characterization of sub-pixel thermal features with a wide range of temperatures is considered using ASTER multispectral TIR data. First, theoretical calculations were made to define a "thermal mixing detection threshold" for ASTER, which quantifies the limits of ASTER's ability to resolve sub-pixel thermal mixing over a range of hot target temperatures and % pixel areas. Then, ASTER TIR data were used to model sub-pixel thermal features at the Yellowstone National Park geothermal area (hot spring pools with temperatures from 40 to 90 ??C) and at Mount Erebus Volcano, Antarctica (an active lava lake with temperatures from 200 to 800 ??C). Finally, various sources of uncertainty in sub-pixel thermal calculations were quantified for these empirical measurements, including pixel resampling, atmospheric correction, and background temperature and emissivity assumptions.
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Exploring the limits of identifying sub-pixel thermal features using ASTER TIR data