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Abstract

Hawaiian volcanoes are highly accessible and well monitored by ground instruments. Nevertheless, observational gaps remain and thermal satellite imagery has proven useful in Hawai‘i for providing synoptic views of activity during intervals between field visits. Here we describe the beginning of a thermal remote sensing programme at the US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). Whereas expensive receiving stations have been traditionally required to achieve rapid downloading of satellite data, we exploit free, low-latency data sources on the internet for timely access to GOES, MODIS, ASTER and EO-1 ALI imagery. Automated scripts at the observatory download these data and provide a basic display of the images. Satellite data have been extremely useful for monitoring the ongoing lava flow activity on Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone at Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō over the past few years. A recent lava flow, named Kahauale‘a 2, was upslope from residential subdivisions for over a year. Satellite data helped track the slow advance of the flow and contributed to hazard assessments. Ongoing improvement to thermal remote sensing at HVO incorporates automated hotspot detection, effusion rate estimation and lava flow forecasting, as has been done in Italy. These improvements should be useful for monitoring future activity on Mauna Loa.

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