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USGS - science for a changing world

Christoph Kern

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Volcanic eruptions involving interaction with water are amongst the most violent and unpredictable geologic phenomena on Earth. Phreatic eruptions are exceptionally difficult to forecast by traditional geophysical techniques. Here we report on short-term precursory variations in gas emissions related to phreatic blasts at Poás volcano, Costa Rica, as measured with an in situ multiple gas analyzer that was deployed at the edge of the erupting lake. Gas emitted from this hyper-acid crater lake approaches magmatic values of SO2/CO2 1–6 days prior to eruption. The SO2 flux derived from magmatic degassing through the lake is measureable by differential optical absorption spectrometry (sporadic campaign measurements),...
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Ultraviolet (UV) camera systems represent an exciting new technology for measuring two dimensional sulfur dioxide (SO2) distributions in volcanic plumes. The high frame rate of the cameras allows the retrieval of SO2 emission rates at time scales of 1 Hz or higher, thus allowing the investigation of high-frequency signals and making integrated and comparative studies with other high-data-rate volcano monitoring techniques possible. One drawback of the technique, however, is the limited spectral information recorded by the imaging systems. Here, a framework for simulating the sensitivity of UV cameras to various SO2 distributions is introduced. Both the wavelength-dependent transmittance of the optical imaging system...
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SO2 camera systems are increasingly being used to image volcanic gas plumes. The ability to derive SO2 emission rates directly from the acquired imagery at high time resolution allows volcanic process studies that incorporate other high time-resolution datasets. Though the general principles behind the SO2 camera have remained the same for a number of years, recent advances in CCD technology and an improved understanding of the physics behind the measurements have driven a continuous evolution of the camera systems. Here we present an intercomparison of seven different SO2 cameras. In the first part of the experiment, the various technical designs are compared and the advantages and drawbacks of individual design...
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We present an analysis of SO2 column densities derived from GOME-2 satellite measurements for the Kīlauea volcano (Hawai`i) for 2007–2012. During a period of enhanced degassing activity in March–November 2008, monthly mean SO2 emission rates and effective SO2 lifetimes are determined simultaneously from the observed downwind plume evolution and meteorological wind fields, without further model input. Kīlauea is particularly suited for quantitative investigations from satellite observations owing to the absence of interfering sources, the clearly defined downwind plumes caused by steady trade winds, and generally low cloud fractions. For March–November 2008, the effective SO2 lifetime is 1–2 days, and Kīlauea SO2...
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As magma ascends in active volcanoes, dissolved volatiles partition from melt into a gas phase, rise, and are released into the atmosphere from volcanic vents. The major components of high-temperature volcanic gas are typically water vapor, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Volcanologists have long recognized that measuring the chemical composition and emission rates of these discharged volatiles can help them understand the physical and chemical processes occurring within volcanic systems. However, in the past, continuous monitoring of gas emissions has been difficult because of the remote locations of many active volcanoes and the harsh environmental conditions at these sites. In late April, 40 scientists collaborating...
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