The feasibility of measuring volcanic deformation or monitoring deformation of active volcanoes using space-borne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) interferometry depends on the ability to maintain phase coherence over appropriate time intervals. Using ERS 1 C band (?? = 5.66 cm) SAR imagery, we studied the seasonal and temporal changes of the interferometric SAR coherence for fresh lava, weathered lava, tephra with weak water reworking, tephra with strong water reworking, and fluvial deposits representing the range of typical volcanic surface materials in the Katmai volcano group, Alaska. For interferograms based on two passes with 35 days separation taken during the same summer season, we found that coherence increases after early June, reaches a peak between the middle of July and the middle of September, and finally decreases until the middle of November when coherence is completely lost for all five sites. Fresh lava has the highest coherence, followed by either weathered lava or fluvial deposits. These surfaces maintain relatively high levels of coherence for periods up to the length of the summer season. Coherence degrades more rapidly with time for surfaces covered with tephra. For images taken in different summers, only the lavas maintained coherence well enough to provide useful interferometric images, but we found only a small reduction in coherence after the first year for surfaces with lava. Measurement of volcanic deformation is possible using summer images spaced a few years apart, as long as the surface is dominated by lavas. Our studies suggest that in order to make volcanic monitoring feasible along the Aleutian arc or other regions with similar climatic conditions, observation intervals of the satellite with C band SAR should be at least every month from July through September, every week during the late spring/early summer or late fall, and every 2-3 days during the winter. Copyright 1998 by the American Geophysical Union.