Charley Hill-Butler – Landsat 8: Review of the First Volcanic Assessment

by Charley Hill-Butler, PhD student.

Following the recent launch of the Landsat 8 satellite (April 2013), my post today will focus on a review of the first known assessment of volcanic activity using this sensor. Concentrating on observations at Paluweh volcano, my director of studies (Dr Matthew Blackett) examines the thermal emission of the volcano and demonstrates the continued utility of the Landsat series to monitor volcanic thermal activity.  Somewhat distressing, however, was the fact that the original Landsat 8 satellite was not designed with any thermal infrared bands and outlines an on-going problem in the remote sensing community that (to date) no sensor has been designed or specifically intended for volcanic hazard assessment. This paper, therefore, not only demonstrates the advantages of the new Landsat sensor for volcanic observations but also stresses the need to encourage future satellite deployments with thermal infrared and volcanic assessment capabilities.

In terms of the analysis itself; Blackett (2014) uses many of the techniques that I employ in my research to determine the radiant power of activity at Paluweh. In particular, he uses the brightness temperature method to provide a ‘snapshot’ of volcanic activity at the time of data acquisition. Overall, this paper provides an initial assessment of the quantitative utility of the Landsat 8 satellite for volcanic assessments. Interestingly however, when compared to detections using the MODIS sensor (utilised in my research), the paper reports a higher radiant power. This could be due to a number of possible reasons relating to the detection and processing techniques of each sensor. But bearing in mind that many of the current sensors employed for volcanic assessments are currently living beyond their means (as outlined by Blackett 2014), I believe this paper is a timely example of the advantages of volcanological remote sensing and highlights the need to encourage the development of future sensors with volcanic capabilities.

Blackett (2014) ‘Early Analysis of Landsat-8 Thermal Infrared Sensor Imagery of Volcanic Activity’. Remote Sensing 6, 2282-2295

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This post originally appeared on Charley’s personal research blog.

Coventry University