Use of ASTER and MODIS thermal infrared data to quantify heat flow and hydrothermal change at Yellowstone National Park

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.04.022



The overarching aim of this study was to use satellite thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing to monitor geothermal activity within the Yellowstone geothermal area to meet the missions of both the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yellowstone National Park Geology Program. Specific goals were to: 1) address the challenges of monitoring the surface thermal characteristics of the > 10,000 spatially and temporally dynamic thermal features in the Park (including hot springs, pools, geysers, fumaroles, and mud pots) that are spread out over ~ 5000 km2, by using satellite TIR remote sensing tools (e.g., ASTER and MODIS), 2) to estimate the radiant geothermal heat flux (GHF) for Yellowstone's thermal areas, and 3) to identify normal, background thermal changes so that significant, abnormal changes can be recognized, should they ever occur (e.g., changes related to tectonic, hydrothermal, impending volcanic processes, or human activities, such as nearby geothermal development). ASTER TIR data (90-m pixels) were used to estimate the radiant GHF from all of Yellowstone's thermal features and update maps of thermal areas. MODIS TIR data (1-km pixels) were used to record background thermal radiance variations from March 2000 through December 2010 and establish thermal change detection limits. A lower limit for the radiant GHF estimated from ASTER TIR temperature data was established at ~ 2.0 GW, which is ~ 30–45% of the heat flux estimated through geochemical thermometry. Also, about 5 km2 of thermal areas was added to the geodatabase of mapped thermal areas. A decade-long time-series of MODIS TIR radiance data was dominated by seasonal cycles. A background subtraction technique was used in an attempt to isolate variations due to geothermal changes. Several statistically significant perturbations were noted in the time-series from Norris Geyser Basin, however many of these did not correspond to documented thermal disturbances. This study provides concrete examples of the strengths and limitations of current satellite TIR monitoring of geothermal areas, highlighting some specific areas that can be improved. This work provides a framework for future satellite-based thermal monitoring at Yellowstone and other volcanic and geothermal systems

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Journal Article
Use of ASTER and MODIS thermal infrared data to quantify heat flow and hydrothermal change at Yellowstone National Park
Series title:
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
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Publisher location:
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s):
Astrogeology Science Center
18 p.
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Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
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United States
Other Geospatial:
Yellowstone National Park