Lava flow mapping is both an essential component of volcano monitoring and a valuable tool for investigating lava flow behavior. Although maps are traditionally created through field surveys, remote sensing allows an extraordinary view of active lava flows while avoiding the difficulties of mapping on location. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, in particular, can detect changes in a flow field by comparing two images collected at different times with SAR coherence. New lava flows radically alter the scattering properties of the surface, making the radar signal decorrelated in SAR coherence images. We describe a new technique, SAR Coherence Mapping (SCM), to map lava flows automatically from coherence images independent of look angle or satellite path. We use this approach to map lava flow emplacement during the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō-Kupaianaha eruption at Kīlauea, Hawai‘i. The resulting flow maps correspond well with field mapping and better resolve the internal structure of surface flows, as well as the locations of active flow paths. However, the SCM technique is only moderately successful at mapping flows that enter vegetation, which is also often decorrelated between successive SAR images. Along with measurements of planform morphology, we are able to show that the length of time a flow stays decorrelated after initial emplacement is linearly related to the flow thickness. Finally, we use interferograms obtained after flow surfaces become correlated to show that persistent decorrelation is caused by post-emplacement flow subsidence.
Additional publication details
Tracking lava flow emplacement on the east rift zone of Kilauea, Hawai’i with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) coherence