Using high resolution SAR imagery for volcano monitoring in SE Asia

Volcanic risks are dynamic – they vary during the course of an eruption and during episodes of unrest, which is when changes in a volcano’s magmatic system can produce measurable signals, such as earthquakes, heat, degassing and deformation.  Monitoring such signals is therefore critical for forecasting when eruptions may happen, how they will develop, and what their impacts will be.

Deformation measurements can be particularly useful for monitoring some volcanoes, as they (i) can be made globally from space1, (ii) commonly occur in pre-eruptive (as well as co-eruptive) periods2 and (iii) can be a good statistical predictor for eruption within a given time period3. Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) measurements of volcano deformation are particularly important in remote settings or where ground-based instruments are sparse. Not every eruption is preceded by deformation, nor does every episode of deformation inevitably herald an eruption.  It is therefore very important for baseline displacement patterns during unrest to be detected and understood.

The recent availability of free, global C-band radar data sets has increased the potential of InSAR for volcano monitoring, providing potential for routine data processing4, automatic detection of volcanic signals5 and novel methods for reduction of atmospheric noise.  However, there are major advantages for volcano monitoring to combining different radar wavelengths6.  This PhD will draw on both global C-band datasets and on local X-band (or L-band) data to investigate volcanic processes in SE Asia.  These datasets will be provided by the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Volcano Demonstrator, with which this studentship will be affiliated.

Research topics that this studentship could develop to address include: (i) addressing the discrepancy between erupted volumes that those estimated from volcanic deformation, (ii) investigating long-term trends in deformation at volcanoes with long-lived (multi-year, decade) eruptions or (iii) cycles of lava dome displacement during extrusive eruption.


The student will work with scientists in Leeds and at the University of Tokyo to:

  • Investigate volcanic deformation at case study volcanoes from South East Asia using multiple wavelengths of satellite radar imagery by constructing and analysing interferograms.
  • Integrate their analysis of volcano deformation with eruption, degassing, thermal and ground-based monitoring data where available.
  • Investigate the link between deformation and magmatic processes using analytical modelling, supplemented by numerical approaches where appropriate.
  • Collaborate with scientists in monitoring or academic institutions in-country to integrate InSAR-derived deformation with other monitoring data, and contribution to interpretation of unrest and eruption in terms of magmatic processes.

Potential for high impact outcome

Maximising the impact of satellite datasets for understanding volcanic hazard is an important problem for disaster risk reduction, and also has potential for understanding the fundamental processes that cause volcanoes to deform.


The student will work under the supervision of Dr Susanna Ebmeier in the Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics volcanology group and should expect to spend significant time at the University of Tokyo in Japan working with Professor Yosuke Aoki. They will be trained in processing and analysing SAR deformation data, as well as modelling deformation using elastic and viscoelastic analytical solutions. At Leeds they will be part of the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET) as will be co-supervised by Prof Andy Hooper.  The student will be encouraged to expand their scientific horizons by participating in training programmes supported by international volcanological and geophysics networks such as IAVCEI and UNAVCO. The successful PhD student will have access to a broad spectrum of training workshops put on by the Faculty of the Environment at Leeds and at the Earthquake Research Institute and the University of Tokyo.

Student profile:

The student should have an interest volcanology and be enthusiastic about processing and analysing large volumes of geodetic data.  The student should have a background in a quantitative science with some experience and interest in scientific computing.  They should also be interested in overseas travel and enthusiastic about extended visits to Japan.


1 Ebmeier et al., (2018). Journal of Applied Volcanology, 7(1).  2 Furtney et al., (2018). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 365, 38-56.  3 Biggs et al., (2014). Nat. Comm., 54 Meyer et al., (2015). ISPRS journal of photogrammetry and remote sensing, 100, 106-117 . 5 Anantrasirichai et al., (2018). Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 123(8), 6592-6606.  6 Pritchard et al., (2018). Journal of Applied Volcanology, 7(1), 1-28.