James, Mike R. and Pinkerton, Harry and Robson, S. (2007) Image-based measurement of flux variation in distal regions of active lava flows. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 8 (3). ISSN 1525-2027
Understanding the processes involved with the advance of lava flows is critical for improving hazard assessments at many volcanoes. Here, we describe the application of computer vision and oblique photogrammetric techniques to visible and thermal images of active 'a'ā flows in order to investigate distal flow processes at Mount Etna, Sicily. Photogrammetric surveys were carried out to produce repeated topographic data sets for calculation of volumetric lava flux at the flow-fronts. Velocity profiles from a distal channel were obtained by rectification of a thermal image sequence and are used to investigate the rheological properties of the lava. Significant variations of the magma flux were observed, and pulses of increased flux arrived within the flow-front region on timescales of several hours. The pulses are believed to be the distal result of more frequent flux changes observed in the vent region. Hence they reflect the importance of flow processes which are believed to cause the coalescence of flux pulses along the channel system as well as short-period variations in effusion rate. In considering advance processes for the individual flow-fronts, it must be assumed that they were fed by a highly unsteady flux, which was volumetrically at least an order of magnitude lower than that observed near the vent.
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