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We describe a new volcanic hotspot detection system, named Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity (MIROVA), based on the analysis of infrared data acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer sensor (MODIS). MIROVA uses the middle infrared radiation (MIR), measured by MODIS, in order to detect and measure the heat radiation deriving from volcanic activity. The algorithm combines spectral and spatial principles, allowing the detection of heat sources from 1 megawatt (MW) to more than 10 gigawatt (GW). This provides a unique opportunity to: (i) recognize small-scale variations in thermal output that may precede the onset of effusive activity; (ii) track the advance of large lava flows; (iii) estimate lava discharge rates; (iv) identify distinct effusive trends; and, lastly, (v) follow the cooling process of voluminous lava bodies for several months. Here we show the results obtained from data sets spanning 14 years recorded at the Stromboli and Mt Etna volcanoes, Italy, and we investigate the above aspects at these two persistently active volcanoes. Finally, we describe how the algorithm has been implemented within an operational near-real-time processing chain that enables the MIROVA system to provide data and infrared maps within 1–4 h of the satellite overpass.

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