One of the most deadly products of a volcanic eruption, and the focus of this research, is pyroclastic density currents. These superheated ground-hugging flows of gas and rock can travel 10’s of miles away from the volcano at speeds up to 450 miles per hour, overwhelming nearby communities. It is important to understand these events and the relationships with their deposits in order to provide hazard assessments and evacuation plans to reduce the risk of loss of life, however, the problem is accomplishing this without endangering the lives of scientists.
Shiveluch volcano is currently undergoing active dome growth and collapse as well as column collapse, which produced in block and ash flow deposits that vary in morphology, size, shape, and block content. The dome and resulting deposits were investigated using the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) thermal infrared, shortwave infrared, visible-near infrared, and digital elevation model data. Linking the deposit distribution and runout to the size, location, and temperature profiles of the dome collapse area provides a basis for determining the distribution and extent of future hazards at similar volcanoes.
The well-studied MSH deposits provide an excellent opportunity to investigate geomorphic and textural similarities between the different deposit types. The database of MSH photographs and field-data collected soon after deposition that document fresh deposit morphologies, and subsequent photographic and satellite data that document the deposit erosion, provide a fundamental link between fresh deposit morphologies and eroded deposits so that this research may be utilized at other volcanoes around the globe.
This multi-spatial scale investigation links satellite-based interpretations of large block and ash flow deposit morphologies to field observations, allowing the rapid and safe identification of features that link directly to eruption processes. Current research involves mapping block and ash flow deposits on Shiveluch, and pyroclastic flow deposits on Mount St. Helens, for a qualitative and quantitative comparison of the different deposit types. An history of the current eruptive episode at Shiveluch volcano is giving insight into a long-lived dome-forming eruption, by investigating the dome collapse events and the resulting deposits. This is done by analyzing the morphologies, distributions, and temperatures of the events over time using the different ASTER products. An in-depth morphological study is giving insight into the late-stage deposition of block and ash flows at Shiveluch volcano, using the high-resolution data.
ASTER thermal infrared scene acquired on 30 December, 2010, showing the 28 October, 2010 block and ash flow.