Satellite data to help in forecasting volcano eruption

Satellite data to help in forecasting volcano eruption


US: Scientists believe satellite data could provide vital information to forecast volcano eruptions. The belief is based on a recent observation which spotted unusually high temperatures in Japan’s Mount Sakurajima merely 14 hours before it erupted.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) weather and climate satellite spotted the unusually high temperatures in Mount Sakurajima. Scientists noted that the reading was a result of an upsurge in volcanic activity. It took just 14 hours for Mount Sakurajima to erupt and spew ash over Kagoshima city. Researchers say that while VIIRS alone could not help in forecasting volcano eruption, a combination of satellite instruments along with ground-based instruments and observations may improve forecasts of volcanic activity.

The VIIRS scans scenes in 22 wavelength bands to identify sources of heat such as gas flares and volcanoes. It includes a visible channel known as the day-night band. The VIIRS day-night band might be able to detect changes in surface heat signaling an imminent volcano, said William Straka, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies in Madison. “It is theoretically possible. You might detect a small change in the temperature of the ground but it would have to be detected at a time when you were not getting regular daytime heating of the surface of the Earth,” said Straka. Visible imagery showing a rapid decrease in snow cover near dormant volcanoes could offer an indication of possible underground volcanic activity. This information could be coupled with seismic sensors to forecast volcanic activities.