Lava lake thermal pattern classification using self organizing maps and relationships to eruption processes at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Special Papers of the Geological Society of America 538
By: , and 



Kīlauea Volcano’s active summit lava lake poses hazards to downwind residents and over 1.6 million Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park visitors each year. The lava lake surface is dynamic; crustal plates separated by incandescent cracks move across the lake as magma circulates below. We hypothesize that these dynamic thermal patterns are related to changes in other volcanic processes, such that sequences of thermal images may provide information about eruption parameters that are sometimes difficult to measure. The ability to learn about current gas emissions and seismic activity from a remote thermal time-lapse camera would be beneficial when conditions are too hazardous for field measurements. We apply a machine learning algorithm called self-organizing maps (SOM) to thermal infrared time-lapse images of the lava lake collected hourly over 23 April – 21 October 2013 (n=4354). The SOM algorithm can take thousands of seemingly different images, each representing the spatial distribution of relative temperature across the lava lake surface, and group them into clusters based on their similarities. We then relate the resulting clusters to sulfur dioxide emissions and seismic tremor to characterize ties between the SOM classification and different emplacement conditions. The SOM classification results are highly sensitive to the normalization method applied to the input images. The standard pixel-by-pixel normalization method yields a cluster of images defined by the highest observed SO2 emission levels, elevated surface temperatures, and a high proportion of cracks between crustal plates. When lava lake surface patterns are isolated by minimizing the effect of temperature variation between images, relationships with seismic tremor activity emerge, revealing an “intense spatter” cluster, characterized by unstable, broken-up crustal plate patterns on the lava lake surface. This proof of concept study provides a basis for extending the SOM classification method to hazard forecasting and real-time volcanic monitoring applications, as well as comparative studies at other lava lakes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Lava lake thermal pattern classification using self organizing maps and relationships to eruption processes at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Series title Special Papers of the Geological Society of America
Series number 538
DOI 10.1130/2018.2538(14)
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 17 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Field volcanology: A tribute to the distinguished career of Don Swanson
First page 307
Last page 324
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kīlauea Volcano
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