Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Model Volcanic Hazard Risk Levels in Areas Surrounding the Copahue Volcano in the Andes Mountains

Monday, 15 December 2014
Amberle M Keith, Amanda Marie Weigel and Jonathan Rivas, NASA DEVELOP National Program, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States
Copahue is a stratovolcano located along the rim of the Caviahue Caldera near the Chile-Argentina border in the Andes Mountain Range. There are several small towns located in proximity of the volcano with the two largest being Banos Copahue and Caviahue. During its eruptive history, it has produced numerous lava flows, pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and lahars. This isolated region has steep topography and little vegetation, rendering it poorly monitored. The need to model volcanic hazard risk has been reinforced by recent volcanic activity that intermittently released several ash plumes from December 2012 through May 2013. Exposure to volcanic ash is currently the main threat for the surrounding populations as the volcano becomes more active. The goal of this project was to study Copahue and determine areas that have the highest potential of being affected in the event of an eruption. Remote sensing techniques were used to examine and identify volcanic activity and areas vulnerable to experiencing volcanic hazards including volcanic ash, SO2 gas, lava flow, pyroclastic density currents and lahars. Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI), EO-1 Advanced Land Imager (ALI), Terra Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), ISS ISERV Pathfinder, and Aura Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) products were used to analyze volcanic hazards. These datasets were used to create a historic lava flow map of the Copahue volcano by identifying historic lava flows, tephra, and lahars both visually and spectrally. Additionally, a volcanic risk and hazard map for the surrounding area was created by modeling the possible extent of ash fallout, lahars, lava flow, and pyroclastic density currents (PDC) for future eruptions. These model results were then used to identify areas that should be prioritized for disaster relief and evacuation orders.