Assessing the use of optical satellite images to detect volcanic impacts on glacier surface morphology

Michael Dieter Martin* (Corresponding Author), Iestyn D. Barr, Benjamin Edwards, Matteo Spagnolo, Sanaz Vajedian, Elias Symeonakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Globally, about 250 Holocene volcanoes are either glacier-clad or have glaciers in close proximity. Interactions between volcanoes and glaciers are therefore common, and some of the most deadly (e.g., Nevado del Ruiz, 1985) and most costly (e.g., Eyjafjallajökull, 2010) eruptions of recent years were associated with glaciovolcanism. An improved understanding of volcano-glacier interactions is therefore of both global scientific and societal importance. This study investigates the potential of using optical satellite images to detect volcanic impacts on glaciers, with a view to utilise detected changes in glacier surface morphology to improve glacier-clad volcano monitoring and eruption forecasting. Roughly 1400 optical satellite images are investigated from key, well-documented eruptions around the globe during the satellite remote sensing era (i.e. 1972 to present). The most common observable volcanic impact on glacier morphology (for both thick and thin ice masses) is the formation of ice cauldrons and openings, often associated with concentric crevassing. Other observable volcanic impacts include ice bulging and fracturing due to subglacial dome growth; localized crevassing adjacent to supraglacial lava flows; and widespread glacier crevassing, presumably, due to meltwater-triggered glacier acceleration and advance. The main limitation of using optical satellite images to investigate changes in glacier morphology is the availability of cloud- and eruption-plume-free scenes of sufficient spatial- and temporal resolution. Therefore, for optimal monitoring and eruption prediction at glacier-clad volcanoes, optical satellite images are best used in combination with other sources, including SAR satellite data, aerial images, ground based observations and satellite-derived products (e.g., DEMs).
Original languageEnglish
Article number3453
Number of pages17
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research and APC were funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant: RPG- 697 2019-093.


  • glaciovolcanism
  • volcano-glacier interactions
  • satellite remote sensing
  • volcanic hazards


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the use of optical satellite images to detect volcanic impacts on glacier surface morphology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this