Imaging growing lava domes has remained a great challenge in volcanology due to their inaccessibility and the severe hazard of collapse or explosion. Changes in surface movement, temperature, or lava viscosity are considered crucial data for hazard assessments at active lava domes and thus valuable study targets. Here, we present results from a series of repeated survey flights with both optical and thermal cameras at the Caliente lava dome, part of the Santiaguito complex at Santa Maria volcano, Guatemala, using an Unoccupied Aircraft System (UAS) to create topography data and orthophotos of the lava dome. This enabled us to track pixel-offsets and delineate the 2D displacement field, strain components, extrusion rate, and apparent lava viscosity. We find that the lava dome displays motions on two separate timescales, (i) slow radial expansion and growth of the dome and (ii) a narrow and fast-moving lava extrusion. Both processes also produced distinctive fracture sets detectable with surface motion, and high strain zones associated with thermal anomalies. Our results highlight that motion patterns at lava domes control the structural and thermal architecture, and different timescales should be considered to better characterize surface motions during dome growth to improve the assessment of volcanic hazards.
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Zorn, Edgar U.; Walter, Thomas R.; Johnson, Jeffrey B.; and Mania, René. (2020). "UAS-Based Tracking of the Santiaguito Lava Dome, Guatemala". Scientific Reports, 10, 8644-1 - 8644-13. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65386-2