Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Simon Carn


Lava flow modeling can be a powerful tool in hazard assessments; however, the ability to produce accurate models is usually limited by a lack of high resolution, up-to-date Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). This is especially obvious in places such as Kilauea Volcano (Hawaii), where active lava flows frequently alter the terrain. In this study, we use a new technique to create high resolution DEMs on Kilauea using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from the TanDEM-X (TDX) satellite. We convert raw TDX SAR data into a geocoded DEM using GAMMA software [Werner et al., 2000]. This process can be completed in several hours and permits creation of updated DEMs as soon as new TDX data are available. To test the DEMs, we use the Harris and Rowland [2001] FLOWGO lava flow model combined with the Favalli et al. [2005] DOWNFLOW model to simulate the 3-15 August 2011 eruption on Kilauea's East Rift Zone. Results were compared with simulations using the older, lower resolution 2000 SRTM DEM of Hawaii. Effusion rates used in the model are derived from MODIS thermal infrared satellite imagery.

FLOWGO simulations using the TDX DEM produced a single flow line that matched the August 2011 flow almost perfectly, but could not recreate the entire flow field due to the relatively high DEM noise level. The issues with short model flow lengths can be resolved by filtering noise from the DEM. Model simulations using the outdated SRTM DEM produced a flow field that followed a different trajectory to that observed. Numerous lava flows have been emplaced at Kilauea since the creation of the SRTM DEM, leading the model to project flow lines in areas that have since been covered by fresh lava flows. These results show that DEMs can quickly become outdated on active volcanoes, but our new technique offers the potential to produce accurate, updated DEMs for modeling lava flow hazards.