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Volcano Deformation Database


Juliet Biggs, University of Bristol

Matt Pritchard, Cornell University


  • Andy Hooper, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • Ben Andrews, Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution
  • Chris Newhall, WOVOdat and Earth Observatory of Singapore
  • Falk Amelung, University of Miami
  • Giuseppe Puglisi, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Italy
  • Paul Lundgren, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Yo Fukushima, Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto Univ.
  • Zhong Lu, USGS
  • Yosuke Aoki, Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo
  • Francesca Cigna,British Geological Survey
  • Valerio Acocella, Dipartimento Scienze Università Roma Tre

Observations of surface displacements at volcanoes (both uplift and subsidence) are only one tool used to study volcanic activity, but they have played an important role in understanding magma movements [e.g. Montgomery-Brown et al., 2010] and in forecasting during many eruptions [e.g. Cervelli et al., 2006; Klein, 1984; Swanson et al., 1983]. On the other hand, many volcanoes also exhibit deformation without leading to an eruption [e.g., Biggs et al, 2014].
Forecasting can be improved from our aggregate knowledge of volcano behavior — for example, what are the properties of a deformation episode at a volcano that do or do not lead to eruption? It is currently difficult to assemble this type of aggregate knowledge, especially on a short timescale in response to a volcanic crisis. At the same time, we now have the opportunity to monitor all of the volcanoes of the world for ground deformation thanks to satellite Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR). Although appropriate InSAR data have not yet been analysed over all of the world’s volcanoes, the number of known deforming volcanoes has more than tripled since 1997 (e.g, 220+ in Biggs and Pritchard, 2017 vs. 44 in Dvorak & Dzurisin, 1997).

Thus, recognizing the need for global information on volcano deformation and the opportunity to address it (with InSAR and other techniques), we have established a Volcano Deformation Database Task force as part of GVM. Our current members involve several researchers who study volcano deformation in different parts of the world along with two organizations that compile information on global volcanic activity of WOVOdat and the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institution. We plan to engage IAVCEI commissions as well.

Thanks to funding from the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, we have a two year project to compare global volcano deformation measurements to satellite thermal and gas observations and to make these data more available to observatories.

The three objectives of our organization are:

  1. to compile deformation observations of all volcanoes globally into a database that will be part of WOVOdat and the Smithsonian Catalog
  2. document any relation between deformation events and eruptions for the Global assessment of volcanic hazard and risk report for 2015 (GAR15) for the UN. This is now available: Loughlin, S.C., Sparks, R.S.J., Brown, S.K., Jenkins, S.F. and Vye-Brown, C.(eds) (2015) Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk. Cambridge University Press.
  3. to better link InSAR and other remote sensing observations to volcano observatories
    We think that this effort will benefit all involved through joint scientific publications, promotion of InSAR and volcano deformation research, and assistance in hazard assessment.

We are always looking for people to help our effort and we encourage any volunteers to contact Juliet Biggs or Matt Pritchard.


Biggs, J. and Pritchard, M.E. (2017) Global volcano monitoring: what does it mean when volcanoes deform? Elements, 13(1), 17-22.

Biggs, J., Ebmeier, S.K., Aspinall, W.P., Lu, Z., Pritchard, M.E., Sparks, R.S.J. and Mather, T.A., 2014. Global link between deformation and volcanic eruption quantified by satellite imagery. Nature communications, 5.

Cervelli, P. F., T. Fournier, J. Freymueller, and J. A. Power (2006), Ground deformation associated with the precursory unrest and early phases of the January 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(18), doi:10.1029/2006GL027219.

Dvorak, J. J., and D. Dzurisin (1997), Volcano geodesy: The search for magma reservoirs and the formation of eruptive vents, Rev. Geophys., 35(3), 343, doi:10.1029/97RG00070.

Fournier, T. J., M. E. Pritchard, and S. N. Riddick (2010), Duration, magnitude, and frequency of subaerial volcano deformation events: New results from Latin America using InSAR and a global synthesis, Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 11, 29, doi:201010.1029/2009GC002558.

Klein, F. W. (1984), Eruption Forecasting at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, J. Geophys. Res., 89(B5), 3059-3073, doi:198410.1029/JB089iB05p03059.

Loughlin, S.C., Sparks, R.S.J., Brown, S.K., Jenkins, S.F. and Vye-Brown, C. (2015) Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk. Cambridge University Press.

Montgomery-Brown, E. K., D. K. Sinnett, M. Poland, P. Segall, T. Orr, H. Zebker, and A. Miklius (2010), Geodetic evidence for en echelon dike emplacement and concurrent slow slip during the June 2007 intrusion and eruption at KīlauRes., 115(B7), doi:10.1029/2009JB006658.

Swanson, D. A., T. J. Casadevall, D. Dzurisin, S. D. Malone, C. G. Newhall, and C. S. Weaver (1983), Predicting Eruptions at Mount St. Helens, June 1980 through December 1982, Science, 221(4618), 1369-1376.

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