Lava flow simulations using discharge rates from thermal infrared satellite imagery during the 2006 Etna eruption
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Techniques capable of measuring lava discharge rates during an eruption are important for hazard prediction, warning, and mitigation. To this end, we developed an automated system that uses thermal infrared satellite MODIS data to estimate time-averaged discharge rate. MODIS-derived time-varying discharge rates were used to drive lava flow simulations calculated using the MAGFLOW cellular automata model, allowing us to simulate the discharge rate-dependent spread of lava as a function of time. During the July 2006 eruption of Mount Etna (Sicily, Italy), discharge rates were estimated at regular intervals (i.e., up to 2 times/day) using the MODIS data. The eruption lasted 10 days and produced a ~3-km-long lava flow field. Time-averaged discharge rates extracted from 13 MODIS images were utilized to produce a detailed chronology of lava flow emplacement, demonstrating how infrared satellite data can be used to drive numerical simulations of lava flow paths during an ongoing eruptive event. The good agreement between simulated and mapped flow areas indicates that model-based inundation predictions, driven by time-varying discharge rate data, provide an excellent means for assessing the hazard posed by ongoing effusive eruptions.