Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes
Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Featured PhD Programmes
Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes

Global Volcanic SO2 Flux and Ground Deformation, using Sentinel mission data

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Satellite remote sensing allows for continuous monitoring of hazardous and geographically distant volcanoes. Two key methods involve monitoring gas emission, using spectrometers, and measuring ground deformation, using InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar). Both of these methods can be used to monitor changes in volcanic activity level.
The flux of various gases can give an indication of the current state of the volcano and the variability can be an indicator of changes in the eruptive system. SO2 is usually the third most abundant gas emitted by volcanoes; negligible background concentrations and clear spectral signals make it the easiest to observe. Ground deformation around a volcano, or on the flanks of the volcano itself, can indicate a change in the magma supply system to a volcano.
The ESA Sentinel constellation aims to improve our understanding of the Earth system as a whole, with each mission targeting one element of the remotely observable Earth. The Sentinel-1 satellites carry C-band Synthetic Aperture Radars (C-SAR), improving the temporal, spatial, and spectral resolution of InSAR measurements. Sentinel-5P, carrying the TROPOMI UV spectrometer, has unparalleled spatial resolution, significantly enhancing our ability to monitor gas emissions from volcanoes across the globe, especially from passively degassing volcanoes.
Passive volcanic degassing – the emission of volcanic gases during quiescent eruptive periods – has been observed around the globe for decades. Resulting plumes are usually located within the boundary layer, often close to the ground. They are more likely to directly impact surrounding populations (human, livestock, and infrastructure) than plumes emitted during higher levels of activity when the plume is hotter and more buoyant. There is currently no estimate of the number of people impacted by volcanic degassing emissions globally.
Gas emission data will be combined with long-term InSAR timeseries to investigate whether there are systematic changes in the ground deformation around passively degassing volcanoes.
The student will leverage the data from these new, highly sensitive instruments, to explore the global SO2 flux from volcanoes, investigate the effect on ground stability in the surrounding regions, and to consider the impact of those plumes on surrounding populations. Measurement campaigns at Mt. Etna, Italy and other volcanoes will be performed to corroborate results.
Initially however, the project will be desk-based, meaning it is possible to start, despite any continuing COVID-19 lockdown.

The student will be based in the Dept. of Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Manchester and will be directly supervised by Dr. Cat Hayer and Prof. Mike Burton. The project is joint with Prof. Andy Hooper from the University of Leeds.

• A strong undergraduate degree, or preferably postgraduate Masters degree, in a relevant subject;
• Prior experience in a high-level scientific computing language, preferably Python;
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills;
• Able to work well in a team and independently;
• Good time and personal management skills;
• Prior experience of GIS and geological fieldwork is a plus.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded PhD, supported through COMET (Centre for the Observation and Monitoring of the Earth, Tectonics and volcanoes), a partnership between multiple UK universities and research institutes to use earth observation data to better monitor the Earth system.

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