From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published January 10, 2012 12:00 PM

Radar Study of Kilauea

Kīlauea is a volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, and one of five shield volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi. The Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone has been continuously erupting in the eastern rift-zone since 1983, making it the longest rift-zone eruption of the last 200 years. Thirty-five eruptions have taken place since 1952, not including the current episode. An airborne radar developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has just returned to Hawaii to continue its study of Kilauea volcano, Hawaii's current most active volcano. UAVSAR uses a technique called interferometry that sends pulses of microwave energy from the sensor on the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth's surface.

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The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, mounted in a pod under NASA's G-III research aircraft from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., returned to Hawaii's Big Island on Jan. 7. The one-week airborne campaign will help scientists better understand processes occurring under Earth's surface at Kilauea.

UAVSAR uses a technique called interferometry that sends pulses of microwave energy from the sensor on the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth's surface.

The radar will collect data over Kilauea from an altitude of about 41,000 feet (12,500 meters). UAVSAR previously studied the region in January 2010 and May 2011. Those two sets of observations successfully imaged the surface deformation caused by the March 2011 fissure eruption in Kilauea's east rift zone.

Flights this month will trace the same path as the two previous years to measure deformation of the volcano since the March 2011 eruption and as part of future studies of the volcano's changing deformation patterns due to volcanic activity.

The current Kīlauea eruption began on January 3, 1983, along the East rift zone at the Pu'u 'Ō'ō vent, where vigorous fountaining built up Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone and sent lava flows downslope. In 1986, activity shifted downrift to a new vent, named Kupaianaha ("mysterious" or "astonishing" in Hawaiian), where it took on a more effusive character. Kupaianaha built into a low, broad shield rather than a cone, and tube-fed lava flows extended 11 to 12 km to the sea. In 1992, the eruption moved back to Puʻu ʻŌʻō, but continued in the same manner, covering nearly all of the 1983-86 lava flows and large areas of coastline.[16] This eruption has covered over 117 km² of land on the southern flank of Kīlauea and has built out into the sea 2 km² of new land. Since 1983 more than 2.7 km³ of lava has been erupted, making the 1983-to-present eruption the largest historically known for Kīlauea.

For further information: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-005&rn=news.xml&rst=3246

Photo: NASA

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