Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences
Fuego volcano (Guatemala) is one of the most active and hazardous volcanoes in the world. Its persistent activity generates lava flows, pyroclastic density currents (PDCs), and lahars that threaten the surrounding areas and produce frequent morphological change. Fuego’s eruption deposits are often rapidly eroded or remobilized by heavy rains and its constant activity and inaccessible terrain 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. Here, we use 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 (<1–72 h), permitting space-based tracking of volcanic activity with unprecedented detail. We show how PlanetScope images collected before, during, and after an eruption can be applied for mapping ash clouds, PDCs, lava flows, or the analysis of morphological change. We assess the utility of the PlanetScope data as a tool for volcano monitoring and rapid deposit mapping that could assist volcanic hazard mitigation efforts in Guatemala and other active volcanic regions.
Volcano monitoring from space using high-cadence planet CubeSat images applied to Fuego Volcano, Guatemala.
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