NASA airborne radar set to image Hawaiian volcanoes

April 4, 2011, JPL/NASA
On March 5, 2011, a large fissure eruption began on the east rift zone of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Credit: ASI/NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Kilauea volcano that recently erupted on the Big Island of Hawaii will be the target for a NASA study to help scientists better understand processes occurring under Earth's surface.

A NASA Gulfstream-III aircraft equipped with a developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is scheduled to depart Sunday, April 3, from the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., to the Big Island for a nine-day mission.

The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, uses a technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar that sends pulses of microwave energy from the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth's surface, such as those caused by earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and glacier movements.

As the Gulfstream-III flies at an altitude of about 12,500 meters (41,000 feet), the radar, located in a pod under the aircraft's belly, will collect data over Kilauea. The UAVSAR's first data acquisitions over this volcanic region took place in January 2010, when the radar flew over the daily for a week. The UAVSAR detected deflation of Kilauea's caldera over one day, part of a series of deflation-inflation events observed at Kilauea as magma is pumped into the volcano's east rift zone.

This month's flights will repeat the 2010 flight paths to an accuracy of within 5 meters, or about 16.5 feet, assisted by a Platform Precision Autopilot designed by engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. By comparing these camera-like images, interferograms are formed that reveal changes in Earth's surface.

Between March 5 and 11, 2011, a spectacular fissure eruption occurred along the east rift zone. Satellite radar imagery captured the progression of this volcanic event.

"The April 2011 UAVSAR flights will capture the March 2011 fissure eruption surface displacements at high resolution and from multiple viewing directions, giving us an improved resolution of the magma injected into the east rift zone that caused the eruption," said JPL research scientist Paul Lundgren.

This injection of magma takes the form of a dike, a thin blade-like sheet of magma extending from the surface to several kilometers depth, with an opening of only a few meters.

"Our goal is to be able to deploy the UAVSAR on short notice to better understand and aid in responding to hazards from Kilauea and other volcanoes in the Pacific region covered by this study," Lundgren added.

Explore further: NASA Airborne Radar Studies Haiti Earthquake Faults

More information: uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/

Related Stories

NASA Airborne Radar Studies Haiti Earthquake Faults

January 27, 2010

In response to the disaster in Haiti on Jan. 12, NASA has added a series of science overflights of earthquake faults in Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola to a previously scheduled three-week airborne ...

NASA Radar Images Show How Mexico Quake Deformed Earth

June 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA has released the first-ever airborne radar images of the deformation in Earth's surface caused by a major earthquake -- the magnitude 7.2 temblor that rocked Mexico's state of Baja California and parts ...

Tracking a hot spot

May 17, 2007

Using a state-of-the-art satellite imagery technique, researchers are able to more precisely predict volcanic activity, bringing them steps closer to understanding where an eruption may occur. A new research study, titled ...

NASA Images Show Continuing Mexico Quake Deformation

August 6, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New NASA airborne radar images of Southern California near the U.S.-Mexico border show Earth's surface is continuing to deform following the April 4 magnitude, 7.2 temblor and its many aftershocks that have ...

Recommended for you

After the Big One: Understanding aftershock risk

September 24, 2018

In early September 2018, a powerful earthquake on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan triggered landslides, toppled buildings, cut power, halted industry, killed more than 40 people and injured hundreds. The national ...

National parks bear the brunt of climate change

September 24, 2018

Human-caused climate change has exposed U.S. national parks to conditions hotter and drier than the rest of the nation, says a new UC Berkeley and University of Wisconsin-Madison study that quantifies for the first time the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.