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Remote Sensing of Volcanoes and Volcanic Processes: Integrating Observation and Modelling


Volcanoes are often remote and inaccessible, particularly after eruption; they have a large footprint and their products are spread widely.  Also some are in politically unstable areas (e.g.  the Congo), so remote sensing (e.g.  from satellites or planes) is very useful.  This book focuses on satellite imagery and aerial remote sensing (both with piloted planes and drones).

There is increasing interest in remote sensing of volcanoes.  It shows that the number of remote sensing papers has increased from less than 10 per year in 1990 to over 80 per year now.  This book reports a lot of recent studies (particularly the application of InSAR - Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar measurements).

The volume contains reviews of several volcanoes and shows how much structural information (e.g.  the magma plumbing system) can be inferred remotely.  Surface measurements also give information on magma movement below the surface and can show subsidence after the evacuation of the magma chamber.  Location of magma pathways and chambers can be inferred from remote sensing data.  This book also includes up-to-date advances, from volcanic edifice deformation to thermal anomalies, gas fluxes and the tracking of ash and gas plumes.

Of course, remote sensing is particularly useful for defining the routes of lahars, lava and pyroclastic flows.  These can be used in the development of hazard maps.  Various authors discuss how various types of model may be used to extract useful information from remote sensing data, to explore the processes underlying the observed signals, to make forecasts to manage hazards.

The prediction of eruptions is the holy grail of volcanology.  Eruption is often preceded by a period of inflation.  Many sub-surface magmatic and volcanic processes cause deformation at the surface

Historically, records of past eruptions have been used to make predictions of future activity.  In this book we see how remote sensing can give relatively immediate forecasts of eruptions and how models can be used to enhance prediction.  It gives much information on attempts at eruption and explosion prediction, both successful and unsuccessful.  It shows that in some places alerts of eruptions in the following month have been very successful.                       

This book is easy to read and tells all levels of reader much about volcanoes and their internal structure as interpreted from space or the air, and represents good value at a cover price of £100, let alone the £50 to Fellows of the Society.

Reviewed by Steve Rowlatt

REMOTE SENSING OF VOLCANOES AND VOLCANIC PROCESSES: INTEGRATING OBSERVATION AND MODELLING by D.M.  Pyle (Editor), T.A.  Mather (Editor), J Biggs (Editor)  Published by the Geological Society London,  Special Publication 380.  Hardback.  ISBN 978-1-86239-362-2 ISBN 0305-8719 Publication Date:  Dec 2013 List Price: £100.  (Fellows £50)