In this chapter, the use of satellite remote sensing to monitor active geological processes is described. Specifically, threats posed by volcanic eruptions are briefly outlined, and essential monitoring requirements are discussed. As an application example, a collaborative, multi-agency operational volcano monitoring system in the north Pacific is highlighted with a focus on the 2007 eruption of Kliuchevskoi volcano, Russia. The data from this system have been used since 2004 to detect the onset of volcanic activity, support the emergency response to large eruptions, and assess the volcanic products produced following the eruption. The overall utility of such integrative assessments is also summarized.
The work described in this chapter was originally funded through two National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth System Science research grants that focused on the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument. A skilled team of volcanologists, geologists, satellite tasking experts, satellite ground system experts, system engineers and software developers collaborated to accomplish the objectives. The first project, Automation of the ASTER Emergency Data Acquisition Protocol for Scientific Analysis, Disaster Monitoring, and Preparedness, established the original collaborative research and monitoring program between the University of Pittsburgh (UP), the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, and affiliates on the ASTER Science Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as well as associates at the Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center (ERSDAC) in Japan. This grant, completed in 2008, also allowed for detailed volcanic analyses and data validation during three separate summer field campaigns to Kamchatka Russia. The second project, Expansion and synergistic use of the ASTER Urgent Request Protocol (URP) for natural disaster monitoring and scientific analysis, has expanded the project to other volcanoes around the world and is in progress through 2011.
The focus on ASTER data is due to the suitability of the sensor for natural disaster monitoring and the availability of data. The instrument has several unique facets that make it especially attractive for volcanic observations (Ramsey and Dehn, 2004). Specifically, ASTER routinely collects data at night, it has the ability to generate digital elevation models using stereo imaging, it can collect data in various gain states to minimize data saturation, it has a cross-track pointing capability for faster targeting, and it collects data up to ±85° latitude for better global coverage. As with any optical imaging-based remote sensing, the viewing conditions can negatively impact the data quality. This impact varies across the optical and thermal infrared wavelengths as well as being a function of the specific atmospheric window within a given wavelength region. Water vapor and cloud formation can obscure surface data in the visible and near infrared (VNIR)/shortwave infrared (SWIR) region due mainly to non-selective scattering of the incident photons. In the longer wavelengths of the thermal infrared (TIR), scattering is less of an issue, but heavy cloud cover can still obscure the ground due to atmospheric absorption. Thin clouds can be optically-transparent in the VNIR and TIR regions, but can cause errors in the extracted surface reflectance or derived surface temperatures. In regions prone to heavy cloud cover, optical remote sensing can be improved through increased temporal resolution. As more images are acquired in a given time period the chances of a clear image improve dramatically. The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) routine monitoring, which commonly collects 4-6 images per day of any north Pacific volcano, takes advantage of this fact. The rapid response program described in this chapter also improves the temporal resolution of the ASTER instrument.
ASTER has been acquiring images of volcanic eruptions since soon after its launch in December 1999. An early example included the observations of the large pyroclastic flow deposit emplaced at Bezymianny volcano in Kamchatka, Russia. The first images in March 2000, just weeks after the eruption, revealed the extent, composition, and cooling history of this large deposit and of the active lava dome (Ramsey and Dehn, 2004). The initial results from these early datasets spurred interest in using ASTER data for expanded volcano monitoring in the north Pacific. It also gave rise to the multi-year NASA-funded programs of rapid response scheduling and imaging throughout the Aleutian, Kamchatka and Kurile arcs. Since the formal establishment of the programs, the data have provided detailed descriptions of the eruptions of Augustine, Bezymianny, Kliuchevskoi and Sheveluch volcanoes over the past nine years (Wessels et al., in press; Carter et al., 2007, 2008; Ramsey et al., 2008; Rose and Ramsey, 2009).
The initial research focus of this rapid response program was specifically on automating the ASTER sensor’s ability for targeted observational scheduling using the expedited data system. This urgent request protocol is one of the unique characteristics of ASTER. It provides a limited number of emergency observations, typically at a much-improved temporal resolution and quicker turnaround with data processing in the United States rather than in Japan. This can speed the reception of the processed data by several days to a week. The ongoing multi-agency research and operational collaboration has been highly successful. AVO serves as the primary source for status information on volcanic activity, working closely with the National Weather Service (NWS), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), military and other state and federal emergency services. Collaboration with the Russian Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (IVS)/Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) is also maintained. Once a volcano is identified as having increased thermal output, ASTER is automatically tasked and the volcano is targeted at the next available opportunity. After the data are acquired, scientists at all the agencies have access to the images, with the primary science analysis carried out at the University of Pittsburgh and AVO. Results are disseminated to the responsible monitoring agencies and the global community through e-mail mailing lists.