Rapid topographic change measured by high-resolution satellite radar at Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, 2008-2010 | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS


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  Rapid topographic change measured by high-resolution satellite radar at Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, 2008-2010

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Volume 199, Issue 1-2, p.142-152 (2011)



Accession Number:





Géologie des systèmes volcaniques ; satellite radar images; topographic change; pyroclastic flow deposits; change detection; InSAR, UMR 7154


High-resolution satellite radar observations of erupting volcanoes can yield valuable information on rapidly changing deposits and geomorphology. Using the TerraSAR-X (TSX) radar with a spatial resolution of about 2 m and a repeat interval of 11 days, we show how a variety of techniques were used to record some of the eruptive history of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat between July 2008 and February 2010. After a 15-month pause in lava dome growth, a vulcanian explosion occurred on 28 July 2008 from a vent that was hidden by dense cloud. We were able to show the civil authorities using TSX difference images of surface roughness change that this explosion had not disrupted the dome sufficiently to warrant continuation of a previous, precautionary evacuation. Change difference images also proved to be valuable in mapping new pyroclastic flow deposits: the valley-occupying block-and-ash component tended to increase backscatter and the marginal surge deposits to reduce it, with the pattern reversing after the event due to erosion and deposition. By comparing east- and west-looking images acquired 12 h apart, the deposition of some individual pyroclastic flows can be inferred from change differences. Some of the narrow upper sections of valleys draining the volcano received many tens of metres of rockfall and pyroclastic flow deposits over periods of a few weeks. By measuring the changing radar shadows cast by these valleys in TSX images the changing depth of infill by deposits could be estimated. In addition to using the amplitude data from the radar images we also used their phase information within the InSAR technique to calculate the topography during a period of no surface activity. This enabled areas of transient topography, crucial for directing future flows, to be captured. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Wadge, G. Cole, P. Stinton, A. Komorowski, J-C Stewart, R. Toombs, A. C. Legendre, Y.