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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Geology (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

First Advisor

Iain Matthew Watson


Simon Anthony Carn


Volcanoes pose a threat to the human population at regional and global scales and so efficient monitoring is essential in order to effectively manage and mitigate the risks that they pose. Volcano monitoring from space has been possible for over thirty years and now, more than ever, a suite of instruments exists with the capability to observe emissions of gas and ash from a unique perspective. The goal of this research is to demonstrate the use of a range of satellite-based sensors in order to detect and quantify volcanic sulphur dioxide, and to assess the relative performances of each sensor against one another. Such comparisons are important in order to standardise retrievals and permit better estimations of the global contribution of sulphur dioxide to the atmosphere from volcanoes for climate modelling.

In this work, retrievals of volcanic sulphur dioxide from a number of instruments are compared, and the individual performances at quantifying emissions from large, explosive volcanic eruptions are assessed. Retrievals vary widely from sensor to sensor, and often the use of a number of sensors in synergy can provide the most complete picture, rather than just one instrument alone.

Volcanic emissions have the ability to result significant economic loses by grounding aircraft due to the high risk associated with ash encountering aircraft. As sulphur dioxide is often easier to measure than ash, it is often used as a proxy. This work examines whether this is a reasonable assumption, using the Icelandic eruption in early 2010 as a case study. Results indicate that although the two species are for the most part collocated, separation can occur under some conditions, meaning that it is essential to accurately measure both species in order to provide effective hazard mitigation.

Finally, the usefulness of satellite remote sensing in quantifying the passive degassing from Turrialba, Costa Rica is demonstrated. The increase in activity from 2005 – 2010 can be observed in satellite data prior to the phreatic phase of early 2010, and can therefore potentially provide a useful indication of changing activity at some volcanoes.