The 1997 eruption of Okmok Volcano, Alaska: A synthesis of remotely sensed imagery

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research

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Okmok Volcano, in the eastern Aleutian Islands, erupted in February and March of 1997 producing a 6-km-long lava flow and low-level ash plumes. This caldera is one of the most active in the Aleutian Arc, and is now the focus of international multidisciplinary studies. A synthesis of remotely sensed data (AirSAR, derived DEMs, Landsat MSS and ETM+ data, AVHRR, ERS, JERS, Radarsat) has given a sequence of events for the virtually unobserved 1997 eruption. Elevation data from the AirSAR sensor acquired in October 2000 over Okmok were used to create a 5-m resolution DEM mosaic of Okmok Volcano. AVHRR nighttime imagery has been analyzed between February 13 and April 11, 1997. Landsat imagery and SAR data recorded prior to and after the eruption allowed us to accurately determine the extent of the new flow. The flow was first observed on February 13 without precursory thermal anomalies. At this time, the flow was a large single lobe flowing north. According to AVHRR Band 3 and 4 radiance data and ground observations, the first lobe continued growing until mid to late March, while a second, smaller lobe began to form sometime between March 11 and 12. This is based on a jump in the thermal and volumetric flux determined from the imagery, and the physical size of the thermal anomalies. Total radiance values waned after March 26, indicating lava effusion had ended and a cooling crust was growing. The total area (8.9 km2), thickness (up to 50 m) and volume (1.54×108 m3) of the new lava flow were determined by combining observations from SAR, Landsat ETM+, and AirSAR DEM data. While the first lobe of the flow ponded in a pre-eruption depression, our data suggest the second lobe was volume-limited. Remote sensing has become an integral part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory’s monitoring and hazard mitigation efforts. Studies like this allow access to remote volcanoes, and provide methods to monitor potentially dangerous ones.

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Journal Article
The 1997 eruption of Okmok Volcano, Alaska: A synthesis of remotely sensed imagery
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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
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Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
19 p.
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