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Thermal monitoring of volcanic activity from space

03 June 2014

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Data from the Meteosat satellite has been used to measure the temperature of lava at a remote volcano in Africa.

The scientists compared data from the Spinning Enhanced Visible and InfraRed Imager (SEVIRI) on board Meteosat with ground data from a thermal camera, to show the temperature of the lava lake at Nyiragongo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The technique was pioneered in Europe, and the researchers say it could be used to help monitor volcanoes in remote places all over the world.

"I first used the technique during a lava fountain at Mt Etna in August 2011," says Dr. Gaetana Ganci, who worked on the study with colleagues Letizia Spampinato, Sonia Calvari and Ciro Del Negro from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) in Italy.

"The first time I saw both signals I was really surprised. We found a very similar radiant heat flux curve - that's the measurement of heat energy being given out - from the ground-based thermal camera placed a few kilometres from Etna and from SEVIRI at 36,000km above the Earth."

Source: European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)

Image credit: EUMETSAT - SEVIRI image of Nyiragongo

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