Bulletin of Volcanology

, 80:21 | Cite as

Constraints on the geomorphological evolution of the nested summit craters of Láscar volcano from high spatio-temporal resolution TerraSAR-X interferometry

  • Nicole RichterEmail author
  • Jacqueline Tema Salzer
  • Elske de Zeeuw-van Dalfsen
  • Daniele Perissin
  • Thomas R. Walter
Research Article


Small-scale geomorphological changes that are associated with the formation, development, and activity of volcanic craters and eruptive vents are often challenging to characterize, as they may occur slowly over time, can be spatially localized, and difficult, or dangerous, to access. Using high-spatial and high-temporal resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery collected by the German TerraSAR-X (TSX) satellite in SpotLight mode in combination with precise topographic data as derived from Pléiades-1A satellite data, we investigate the surface deformation within the nested summit crater system of Láscar volcano, Chile, the most active volcano of the central Andes. Our aim is to better understand the structural evolution of the three craters that comprise this system, to assess their physical state and dynamic behavior, and to link this to eruptive activity and associated hazards. Using multi-temporal SAR interferometry (MT-InSAR) from ascending and descending orbital geometries, we retrieve the vertical and east-west components of the displacement field. This time series indicates constant rates of subsidence and asymmetric horizontal displacements of all summit craters between June 2012 and July 2014, as well as between January 2015 and March 2017. The vertical and horizontal movements that we observe in the central crater are particularly complex and cannot be explained by any single crater formation mechanism; rather, we suggest that short-term activities superimposed on a combination of ongoing crater evolution processes, including gravitational slumping, cooling and compaction of eruption products, as well as possible piston-like subsidence, are responsible for the small-scale geomorphological changes apparent in our data. Our results demonstrate how high-temporal resolution synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) time series can add constraints on the geomorphological evolution and structural dynamics of active crater and vent systems at volcanoes worldwide.


Nested crater systems Pit crater evolution Láscar volcano Pléiades-1 TerraSAR-X SpotLight interferometry MT-InSAR SARproZ 



TerraSAR-X data were provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) through the proposal GEO1505. We thank Mehdi Nikkhoo for his help collecting and processing the TLS data and for fruitful discussions, which greatly improved the manuscript. Likewise, we are grateful for essential and invaluable suggestions and comments on the manuscript provided by Michael Poland. We thank Martin Zimmer and Christian Kujawa for their assistance during fieldwork and for contributive discussions on various occasions. We also thank Martin Leonhardt for his field assistance and for contributing photographs. We are grateful to Joel Ruch, Francisco Delgado, Matt Pritchard, and to Valerio Acocella, the associated editor, as well as Andrew Harris, the executive editor, for their comments and feedback which greatly improved this manuscript.

Author contribution

NR collected the TLS data together with Mehdi Nikkhoo. NR and JTS generated the Pléiades DEM. NR processed the TerraSAR-X time series data and prepared the figures. JTS provided the MATLAB script for deriving the near-vertical and near-horizontal displacement field, to which NR applied minor edits. DP developed the SARproZ software. The work was supervised by TRW. NR prepared the manuscript with contributions of EZD; all coauthors helped improving the manuscript.

Funding information

This is a contribution to VOLCAPSE, a research project funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s H2020 Programme/ERC consolidator grant no. ERC-CoG 646858. This work was also supported by the Helmholtz Alliance “Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics” (HGF EDA) and by GFZ Potsdam within the framework of the IPOC network.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ)PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la FournaiseInstitut de Physique du Globe de Paris - Sorbonne Paris Cité (OVPF-IPGP)La Plaine des CafresFrance
  3. 3.The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)Ministry of Infrastructure and Water ManagementDe BiltThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Lyles School of Civil EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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