Automated tracking of lava lake level using thermal images at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i

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Abstract

Tracking the level of the lava lake in Halema'uma'u Crater, at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai'i, is an essential part of monitoring the ongoing eruption and forecasting potentially hazardous changes in activity. We describe a simple automated image processing routine that analyzes continuously-acquired thermal images of the lava lake and measures lava level. The method uses three image segmentation approaches, based on edge detection, short-term change analysis, and composite temperature thresholding, to identify and track the lake margin in the images. These relative measurements from the images are periodically calibrated with laser rangefinder measurements to produce real-time estimates of lake elevation. Continuous, automated tracking of the lava level has been an important tool used by the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory since 2012 in real-time operational monitoring of the volcano and its hazard potential.

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Patrick, M. R., Swanson, D., & Orr, T. (2016). Automated tracking of lava lake level using thermal images at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai’i. Journal of Applied Volcanology, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13617-016-0047-0

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