An investigation of pre-eruptive deformation for the 2004 eruption of Mount St. Helens using persistent scatterer interferometry

Monday, 15 December 2014
Mark Welch, University of Washington Seattle Campus, Seattle, WA, United States and David A Schmidt, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States
The volcanoes of the Cascade Range pose a legitimate threat to people living in the Pacific Northwest. Mt St Helens, which erupted in 2004 as a part of a dome building event, is a notable example of this danger. Deformation and seismicity are known indicators of volcanic activity and can provide warning of an imminent eruption. In the weeks leading up to the 2004 eruption, a shallow earthquake swarm was detected under St. Helens, suggesting ongoing deformation with its source beneath the edifice. A campaign GPS survey conducted in 2000 found no evidence of deformation. The sole continuous GPS station that was operational prior to the eruption (located ~9 km away from the crater) began moving only with the onset of the earthquake swarm.

Because of the lack of ground based geodetic instruments in the near-field of Mt St Helens at the time of the 2004 eruption, it is unknown whether pre-eruptive deformation occurred on the edifice or solely within crater. InSAR is the only method available to conclusively determine whether the 2004 eruption was preceded by deformation of the edifice. Previous work explored this question using standard 2-pass interferometry, but the results were inconclusive. The main obstacle to implementing InSAR methods in the Cascades region is phase decorrelation due to the presence of both dense forest and snow for most of the year. We revisit the available InSAR data for St. Helens by experimenting with the application of the Persistent Scatterers and Distributed Scatterers processing techniques in order to overcome the decorrelation problem. By using these techniques on the question of Mt St Helens pre-eruptive deformation, we will demonstrate the viability of their application to the entire Northwest region as a low cost, low maintenance, monitoring tool.