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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

Simon Carn

Advisor 2

Rudiger Escobar-Wolf

Committee Member 1

Gianluca Groppelli


Fuego volcano (Guatemala) is one of the most active and hazardous volcanoes in the world. Its almost persistent activity generates lava flows, pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) and airfall tephra. After the emplacement, its deposits are often eroded and mobilized by heavy rains, forming lahars. These processes cause frequent morphological change and threaten the surrounding areas. Fuego was very active in 2018, producing three main eruptions in February, June and November. This study mainly focused on the first of these events, later compared to the June event. A violent-Strombolian eruption happened between January 31st and February 1st producing lava fountains, lava flows directed SW from the summit, and PDCs down the east flank. A significant portion of the material from this activity was deposited in three of the seven channels -known locally as barrancas - which surround the edifice. An important amount of ash was also ejected and blow by the wind to the west. The activity was monitored by a webcam, recording the complete succession of events.

Inaccessible terrain at Fuego makes ground-based assessment of recent eruptive deposits very challenging. Earth-orbiting satellites can provide unique observations of volcanoes during eruptive activity - when ground-based techniques may be too hazardous - and also during inter-eruptive phases, but have typically been hindered by relatively low spatial and temporal resolution. This study tested the use of a new source of Earth observation data for volcano monitoring: high resolution (~ 3 m pixel size) images acquired from a constellation of over 150 CubeSats (‘Doves’) operated by Planet Labs Inc. The Planet Labs constellation provides high spatial resolution at high cadence (