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Report on Special Announcements (Unknown) — January 2003

Special Announcements

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 1 (January 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Special Announcements (Unknown) Global high-temperature thermal monitoring system (MODIS Thermal Alerts)

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Special Announcements (Unknown) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200301-600300

Special Announcements


Lat Unknown, Unknown; summit elev. m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The MODIS Thermal Alerts website (http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/) is the first truly global high-temperature thermal monitoring system for volcanic activity. This system is capable of detecting and documenting changes in active lava flows, lava domes, lava lakes, strongly incandescent vents, and hot pyroclastic flows. No alert is likely to be triggered by an ash cloud. MODIS cannot see through weather clouds and is also liable to miss events of less than several hours duration. Nevertheless, MODIS is capable of adding significant information to the record of global volcanic activity.

As described by Flynn and others (2001), Wright and others (2002), and Rothery and others (2003), the MODIS Thermal Alerts website provides a series of maps updated every 24 hours to show 'thermal alerts' based on night-time (approximately 2230 local time) infrared data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that is carried by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. Thermal alerts are based on an 'alert ratio' (3.9 µm radiance - 12 µm radiance) / (3.9 µm radiance + 12 µm radiance) and an alert is triggered whenever this ratio has a value more positive than -0.8. This threshold value was chosen empirically by inspection of images containing known volcanic sites at high temperature, and is the most negative value that avoids numerous false alarms. There are also some day-time alerts (at approximately 1030 local time) based on the same algorithm. These incorporate a correction for estimated solar reflection and a more stringent threshold, whereby the alert ratio must be more positive than -0.6 to trigger an alert.

In order to bring this valuable tool to the attention of a wider community, Dave Rothery and Diego Coppola have provided an analysis of volcanic activity detected by MODIS in Melanesia from January 2001 to December 2002, which they relate as fully as possible to conventional observations in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network. In the cases of Manam, Rabaul, Ulawun, and Pago there is a high degree of correspondence between MODIS alerts and independently derived observations. In the cases of Bagana, Tinakula, and Ambrym the MODIS alerts represent the only hitherto reported evidence of activity during 2001-2002. Lopevi and Yasur are intermediate cases, where MODIS adds significantly to what has previously been reported. All the 'new' activity is not necessarily unknown to local volcanologists (though this may be so in some cases), and in fact additional information from local sources would help to refine the MODIS interpretation. However, the MODIS Thermal Alerts provide a useful source of near real-time information that is openly available for the benefit of the global volcanism community.

Graphs of the 'alert ratio' and number of alerted pixels indicate the magnitude of every anomaly detected during the period. In some cases these are accompanied by maps indicating the center coordinates of the alerted pixels. The original pixels are 1 x 1 km squares, which means that the true site of a spatially small anomaly that has triggered an alert can be anywhere within a 1-km box surrounding the center point. The geolocational accuracy of MODIS pixel coordinates is generally reckoned to be better than 1 km, but may become worse for high volcanoes, especially when seen close to the edge of an imaging swath (when the satellite can be more than 45 degrees away from the zenith). Furthermore, for some of the more remote volcanoes MODIS scientists believe there may remain significant map-location errors.

References. Flynn, L.P., Wright R., Garbeil, H., Harris, A.J.L., and Pilger, E., 2001, A global thermal alert system using MODIS: initial results from 2000-2001: Advances in Environmental Monitoring and Modelling, no. 3, Monitoring volcanic hotspots using thermal remote sensing, edited by Harris, A.J.L., Wooster, M.J., and Rothery, D. A. (http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kis/schools/hums/geog/advemm/vol1no3.html).

Wright, R., Flynn, L., Garbeil, H., Harris, A., and Pilger, E., 2002, Automated volcanic eruption detection using MODIS: Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 82, p. 135-155.

Rothery, D.A., Thorne, M.T., and Flynn, L., 2003, MODIS thermal alerts in Britain and the North Sea during the first half of 2001: International Journal of Remote Sensing, v. 24, p. 817-826.

Geological Summary. Special announcements or information of general interest not linked to any specific volcano.

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