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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

Early detection of volcano flank failure using InSAR

PI:  Alfredo Mahar Francisco Lagmay ( or, University of the Philippines, National Institute of Geological Sciences
U.S. Partner: Falk Amelung, University of Miami
Project Dates: October 2014 to February 2017
3-236 Mount Mayon
Mount Mayon in the Philippines
One of the hazards associated with steeply sided volcanoes is large-scale failure of their edifices. Known occurrences of sector failure in volcanoes worldwide occur with or without associated eruptions. To investigate the impact of tectonics on the stability of more than 200 volcanoes in the Philippines, a persistent scatterer interferometric synthetic aperture radar (PSInSAR) will be used to measure ground motion in the region where its edifice is erected. The fault blocks traversing volcanoes will be examined in terms of sense and rate of movement using available time-series radar images through PSInSAR. The project will lead to a better understanding of precursory deformation of large-scale volcanic landslides and possibly help predict eruptions, as was the case for the 1980 Mt. St. Helens catastrophic event.

The research project aims to detect incipient movement of volcanic landslides, understand deformation patterns and structures preceding large scale volcano instability, and contribute to predictive capability through improved knowledge of deformation patterns within volcano flanks. All of these can subsequently be used for volcano hazard assessment. With this research project, it is expected that InSAR and other related technologies can be further developed and applied in the Philippines. This study is expected to enhance current understanding of volcanic behavior, its relation to tectonic processes, and how it may affect the mechanism of failure brought about by instabilities induced by these processes. With the multidisciplinary approach of this study, the research team expects to mitigate hazards using state-of-the-art technology and identify disaster-prone areas for longer-term community development planning. In addition, the project will lead to the establishment of the Southeast Asia Geohazard Natural Laboratory of GEOSS to secure continuing InSAR coverage.

Summary of Recent Activities

As the project moved into its closing months in the last quarter of 2016, Dr. Lagmay and his group were able to process ALOS PALSAR-1 images using the software tool StaMPS. A deformation map of Kanlaon using the ALOS images was produced, and the team will see if the results are consistent with those obtained using the previous methods they employed. Data from the Envisat satellite showing Mayon and Bulusan and other volcanoes in the Bicol Arc were also generated, both using images from ascending orbits. During this period, the researchers also planned a visit by student Ms. Jolly Joyce Sulapas to U.S. partner Dr. Falk Amelung's laboratory at the University of Miami. From January 14 to February 11, 2017, Ms. Sulapas worked with Dr. Amelung and his students on processing more data to observe if there are discernible deformations in Philippine volcanoes. In addition, she received training on using geophysical numerical deformation modelling software available there to model the source of deformations, whether magmatic or otherwise.

Although this project ended as of February 28, 2017, results from all project activities over the past two and a half years will be integrated into future projects to help improve the technical capabilities of Dr. Lagmay’s group. Future research on ground deformation, even those not related to volcanoes, will be possible thanks to the new expertise and knowledge they have gained. For instance, modelling the impacts of climate change can be enhanced by incorporating the effects of land subsidence, which can be done using InSAR technology. This is very important, especially to coastal communities most affected by the adverse effects of sea-level rise and the lowering of coastal lands.

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