Greg Babonis

State University of New York at Buffalo

Applied Research Topic: 

Applications of ICESat-2 in volcanic and geohazards-related research.

Potential Applications: 

Volcanic hazard mitigation, monitoring, and forecasting


Digital elevation models (DEMs) are rarely accurate for long at active volcanoes, as strong depositional and erosional processes rapidly change the landscape. Topographic changes during an ongoing eruptive crisis can have important hazard implications, as in-filled valleys are less able to contain subsequent pyroclastic density currents (PDCs: hot avalanches of volcanic rock and gas) and steeper average drainage slopes can increase PDC mobility. As such frequently updated DEMs are important to hazard mitigation and management. Hazard management often involves the use of computational flow models that simulate granular mass flows over real topography, in the form of DEMs. DEMs of volcanoes have typically been generated from terrestrial or private airborne altimetry flights over specific volcanic complexes, from optical imagery and platforms such as ASTER or SPOT when available, or from NASA Icebridge and ICESat-1 datasets where available. However there exists a need for systematic updating of DEMs available at volcanoes.

Additionally, deformation of volcanic flanks is a useful indicator in eruption forecasting, and is often monitored using ground-based sensors (tiltmeters, GPS) or, less frequently, InSAR. High temporal resolution, satellite-based deformation monitoring of flank deformation could provide the basis for improved deformation monitoring and eruption forecasting at poorly instrumented volcanoes.

To this end, ICESat-2 data are used as control points to generate high spatial and temporal resolution DEMs to be used as model inputs for the prediction of evolving PDC hazards and to further the understanding of physical volcanic processes. Additionally, repeat track and crossover analysis, combined with DEMs, will be used to monitor volcanic lava dome volume changes and flank deformation. Finally, we use waveform analysis of current LiDAR data to derive roughness characteristics of volcanic deposits, in order to map different components of PDCs, i.e., dense block-and-ash flows and dilute pyroclastic surges. We anticipate developing techniques to use ICESat-2 data in a similar fashion. Additionally, this research will focus on determining surface change histories related to subglacial volcanic events in areas such as Antarctica, Iceland, and in the southern Andean ice fields.

SDT Member Partner: 

Sarah Ogburn, SUNY at Buffalo; Dr. Eliza Calder, School of GeoSciences, The University of Edinburgh; Dr. Greg Valentine, Director of the Center for Geohazards Studies, SUNY at Buffalo

End Users: 

Volcano Observatories and volcanic hazard modelers via International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earths Interior (IAVCEI) Commission on Volcanic Hazards and Risk, Vhub user group, UB GMFG (Geophysical Mass Flow Group)

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