Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 73, Issue 5, pp 577–593 | Cite as

Time series analysis of infrared satellite data for detecting thermal anomalies: a hybrid approach

  • W. C. Koeppen
  • E. Pilger
  • R. Wright
Research Article


We developed and tested an automated algorithm that analyzes thermal infrared satellite time series data to detect and quantify the excess energy radiated from thermal anomalies such as active volcanoes. Our algorithm enhances the previously developed MODVOLC approach, a simple point operation, by adding a more complex time series component based on the methods of the Robust Satellite Techniques (RST) algorithm. Using test sites at Anatahan and Kīlauea volcanoes, the hybrid time series approach detected ~15% more thermal anomalies than MODVOLC with very few, if any, known false detections. We also tested gas flares in the Cantarell oil field in the Gulf of Mexico as an end-member scenario representing very persistent thermal anomalies. At Cantarell, the hybrid algorithm showed only a slight improvement, but it did identify flares that were undetected by MODVOLC. We estimate that at least 80 MODIS images for each calendar month are required to create good reference images necessary for the time series analysis of the hybrid algorithm. The improved performance of the new algorithm over MODVOLC will result in the detection of low temperature thermal anomalies that will be useful in improving our ability to document Earth’s volcanic eruptions, as well as detecting low temperature thermal precursors to larger eruptions.


MODIS Time series analysis MODVOLC GOES Kilauea volcano Anatahan volcano Cantarell oil field 



This work was funded by NASA grant NNX08AF08G and the MASINT Consortium to RW. The authors thank Harold Garbeil for writing the georeferencing software used in this work. The manuscript was improved by thoughtful reviews from Matthew Patrick, Martin Wooster, and Andrew Harris. This is HIGP publication 1876 and SOEST publication 8057.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Ecological Science InstituteOronoUSA
  2. 2.Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and PlanetologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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