UAF, NASA Develop Volcanic Eruption Prediction Technique

Mar 15, 2021

A University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist has led development of a way to anticipate volcanic eruptions years in advance. The approach uses satellite imagery to track small changes in temperature on lands around the base of a volcano. KUAC’s Dan Bross reports.

Redoubt Volcano following an April 4, 2009 eruption
Credit M.G. McGimsey / AVO/USGS

UAF volcanologist Tarsilo Girona and two colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory analyzed 16 years of satellite imagery looking for ground temperature changes around volcanos.  Girona says their research, published last week in the journal Nature Geosciences, shows small temperature changes corresponding with volcanic activity.

…these heat emissions.”     

Girona says temperature increases on the order of 1 degree Celsius, over large areas surrounding volcanoes, occurred well prior to eruptions.

…before the eruptions.”

Girona says the correspondence held true for several different volcanoes they studied, including Alaska’s Mt. Redoubt.  He says the next step is to analyze temperature changes on a finer scale to more precisely predict when a volcano will erupt.

…a few months.”

Girona says the technique can help volcanic eruption forecasting at the UAF based Alaska Volcano Observatory, and other such facilities around the world.  

…monitor volcanic activity.”

Girona says one of the next steps is to go into the field and install thermometers in the ground around volcanoes. Girona, who up until last year worked for NASA’a Jet Propulsion Lab in California, has a grant from the space agency to continue collaborating with JPL on the next phase of research