Volcano Monitoring using InSAR: application to the Cascades Volcanoes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Earth Sciences


Recent developments in satellite geodesy are providing a new perspective on volcanic processes and continental tectonics through observations of largely aseismic processes such as interseismic strain accumulation and magma intrusion. Scientists are interested in these measurements since they can identify the mechanisms controlling continental deformation and quantify the constitutive laws controlling rheology, but practical applications include seismic and volcano hazard assessment and geothermal resources. InSAR has been used to study volcanic deformation in a wide variety of situations but the interferometic coherence is reduced by changes in the appearance of the ground surface (e.g vegetation, steep slopes) and the accuracy is limited by variations in the path delays caused by tropospheric water vapour. Our research group, part of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) has developed algorithms (Poly-interferogram rate and time-series estimator; known as PIRATE) which are designed to measure fault-related processes such as interseismic strain accumulation (Biggs et al, 2007; Elliott et al, 2008; Wang et al, 2009) and postseismic relaxation (Biggs et al, 2009) in similar conditions (e.g. Alaska, Tibet). The USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory is keen for us to adapt this and other codes to study volcanic deformation. The aims will be to apply these methods to their extensive archive of radar data and set up an operational system for near real-time monitoring for the Cascades Range. This project is truly collaborative, the universities will provide the algorithm development from scientific applications while the CASE partner will provide access to the dataset and a practical application for the results. Together the partners will provide training which cuts across purely scientific algorithm development to practical hazard monitoring. The existing data archive and infrastructure of the USGS make this the ideal environment to transfer recent technological developments, yet the project will also have impact globally and to the UK. Numerous other volcanoes around the world sit in similar environmental conditions and we have established links with several other observatories who would benefit, as will the global-interests of the UK-insurance industry. The student will receive training in a wide range of areas, including satellite geodesy, image analysis, volcanology and computing. They will also receive guidance in the preparation and presentation of their research to both academic and hazard monitoring audiences. During the project the student will spend at least 6 months based at CVO, participating in the day-to-day monitoring activities of the volcano observatory and incorporating the InSAR observations into ground-based measurements. A background in geophysics, physics, mathematics or engineering is required for this project. Upon completion, the student will be very well prepared for a career in industry or academia, including research in topics as diverse as volcanology, earth observation, risk and hazard management and insurance.


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