Eyjafjallajökull Magma Monitoring From Time Series Data of TerraSAR-X

Joana Esteves Martins, Karsten Spaans, Andy Hooper, Freysteinn Sigmundsson, Kurl Feigl

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the resulting ash cloud highlights the need for research on Icelandic volcanoes. While most of the interest was sparked by the closure of air space over much of Europe, the potentially life-threatening consequences for the people living in the area directly beneath the volcano alone are incentive enough to better understand volcanic processes. Katla volcano is directly adjacent to Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and historically has been more active and produced larger eruptions. The consequences of an eruption at Katla could therefore be much more severe than those witnessed this spring at Eyjafjallajökull. Timely prediction of an impending eruption would greatly reduce the severity of these consequences, which is one of the ultimate goals of volcanic research. After a period of quiescence since a sill intrusion in 1999-2000, a subtle deformation signal was again detected at Eyjafjallajökull, beginning in the summer of 2009, at a continuous GPS station on the southern flank. We immediately began tasking the TerraSAR-X satellite to acquire SAR images every 11 days, giving a time series of SAR images prior to the eruption with unprecedented temporal sampling (although interrupted by snow during the winter). Here we present the results of InSAR time series analysis of this data set. After correcting for DEM errors and reduction of atmospheric signal we find a number of signals that we tentatively interpret as a combination of magma movement, elastic response to snow melting and landsliding.. The mean velocities from June 2009 to February 2010 show a subsidence pattern in the southeastern part of the volcano flanks and uplift in the southwest. However, such a different deformation signal between two areas so close could also imply atmospheric, topographic or phase unwrapping errors. To assess the contribution to the deformation signal from these possible error sources, we examined time series of displacements during this period for various areas. The results show a largely linear behavior between nearby areas from 18th June 2009 to 04 February 2010, followed by an excursion in the deformation signal during 17th October 2009. Significantly, the signal is smooth in time, implying that it is not due to atmospheric contamination. The deformation seems consistent with the continuous GPS station THEY, and can indeed indicate magma migration. However, further work is required to reliably separate out the deformation signals that are not related to volcanic processes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event2010 AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, USA - Washington, SUSA
Duration: 13 Dec 201017 Dec 2010


Conference2010 AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, USA


  • Eyjafjallajökull
  • Volcanic
  • eruption
  • InSAR
  • Time-series analysis
  • TerraSAR-X
  • GPS


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