Synthetic aperture radar interferometry of Okmok volcano, Alaska: Radar observations


  • Zhong Lu,

  • Dörte Mann,

  • Jeffrey T. Freymueller,

  • David J. Meyer


ERS-1/ERS-2 synthetic aperture radar interferometry was used to study the 1997 eruption of Okmok volcano in Alaska. First, we derived an accurate digital elevation model (DEM) using a tandem ERS-1/ERS-2 image pair and the preexisting DEM. Second, by studying changes in interferometric coherence we found that the newly erupted lava lost radar coherence for 5–17 months after the eruption. This suggests changes in the surface backscattering characteristics and was probably related to cooling and compaction processes. Third, the atmospheric delay anomalies in the deformation interferograms were quantitatively assessed. Atmospheric delay anomalies in some of the interferograms were significant and consistently smaller than one to two fringes in magnitude. For this reason, repeat observations are important to confidently interpret small geophysical signals related to volcanic activities. Finally, using two-pass differential interferometry, we analyzed the preemptive inflation, coeruptive deflation, and posteruptive inflation and confirmed the observations using independent image pairs. We observed more than 140 cm of subsidence associated with the 1997 eruption. This subsidence occurred between 16 months before the eruption and 5 months after the eruption, was preceded by ∼18 cm of uplift between 1992 and 1995 centered in the same location, and was followed by ∼10 cm of uplift between September 1997 and 1998. The best fitting model suggests the magma reservoir resided at 2.7 km depth beneath the center of the caldera, which was ∼5 km from the eruptive vent. We estimated the volume of the erupted material to be 0.055 km3 and the average thickness of the erupted lava to be ∼7.4 m.