Anatomy of 1986 Augustine volcano eruptions as recorded by multispectral image processing of digital AVHRR weather satellite data

Document Type


Publication Date



Eighteen digital AVHRR (advanced very high resolution radiometer) data sets from NOAA-6 and NOAA-9 polar-orbiting satellites recorded between 27 March and 7 April 1986 depict the eruptive activity of Augustine volcano, located 280 km SW of Anchorage, Alaska. The synoptic view (resolution of either 1.1 or 4.4 km), frequent coverage (often twice a day), and multispectral coverage (five bands: 0.58–0.68; 0.72–1.1; 3.55–3.93; 10.5–11.3; and 11.5–12.5 μm) makes the AVHRR broadly applicable to analyzing explosive eruption clouds. The small scale of the Augustine activity (column heights of 2–13 km and eruption rates of 2x106–8x107metric tonnes/day) facilitated intensive multispectral study because the plumes generally covered areas within the 550x550 km area of one easily manipulated image field. Hourly ground weather data and twice-daily radiosonde measurements from stations surrounding the volcano plus numerous volcanological observations were made throughout the eruption, providing important ground truth with which to calibrate the satellite data. The total erupted volume is estimated to be at least 0.102 km3. The pattern of changing eruption rates determined by satellite observations generally correlate with more detailed estimates of explosion magnitudes. Multispectral processing techniques were used to distinguish eruption clouds from meteorological clouds. Variable weather during the Augustine eruption offered an opportunity to test various trial algorithms. A ratio between thermal IR channels four and five, served to delineate the ashbearing eruption plumes from ordinary clouds. Future work is needed to determine whether the successful multispectral discrimination is caused by wavelength-dependent variable emission of silicate ash or reflects a spectral role of sulfuric acid aerosol in the plume.

Publisher's Statement

© Springer-Verlag 1991. Publisher's version of record:

Publication Title

Bulletin of Volconology