New research uses satellites to predict end of volcanic eruptions

Researchers from the SOEST recently discovered that infrared satellite data could be used to predict when lava flow-forming eruptions will end.

Using National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite data, Estelle Bonny, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and her mentor, Hawaiʻi Institute for Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) researcher Robert Wright, tested a hypothesis first published in 1981 that detailed how lava flow rate changes during a typical effusive volcanic eruption. The model predicted that once a lava flow-forming eruption begins, the rate at which lava exits the vent quickly rises to a peak and then reduces to zero over a much longer period of time—when the rate reaches zero, the eruption has ended.

HIGP faculty developed a system that uses infrared measurements made by NASA’s MODIS sensors to detect and measure the heat emissions from erupting volcanoes—heat is used to retrieve the rate of lava flow.

Read more about it in the UH System News, Hawaii News Now, and Maui Now.