Using satellites to map ground movements on Fogo volcano

The Fogo volcano, named after the Cape Verde island it inhabits, erupted on 23rd November for the first time in 19 years. Initial analysis suggests that there was little warning from the volcano before the eruption and surprised many local residents. The volcano is still currently active and the locals have been evacuated.

The volcano expelled a large quantity of lava which flowed towards a nearby village. About 20 homes were destroyed

Researchers at the University of Leeds, School of Earth and Environment (Pablo Gonzalez) and PPO.labs (Petar Marincovic) in the Netherlands have been busy analysing satellite radar data from the European Space Agency’s new Sentinel-1A satellite, which launched earlier this year in April.

Preliminary results show the movement of the ground on and around the volcano shown by the rainbow colours on the radar deformation map shown below.

Surface deformation map of the Fogo island volcano that erupted recently.  Source: ESA

Surface deformation map of the Fogo island volcano that erupted recently.
Source: ESA

The use of satellites, such as Sentinel-1A, will allow for a much greater number of volcanoes to be monitored on a regular basis. This is particularly valuable in places with few sensors on the ground. The data acquisition rates are expected to increase further with the launch of the next suite of Sentinel satellites from the European Space agency over the next few years.

“By acquiring regular images from Sentinel-1, we will be able to monitor magma movement in the subsurface, even before eruptions take place, and use the data to provide warnings,” said Tim Wright from the University of Leeds and director of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics. (quote source)

“The coverage and repeat visit time of Sentinel-1 is unprecedented and we are currently working on a system that will use Sentinel-1 to monitor all of the visible volcanoes in the world,” said Andy Hooper, also from the University of Leeds. (quote source)

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