Observing active deformation of volcanoes in North America: Geodetic data from the Plate Boundary Observatory and associated networks Abstract


  • The EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory (PBO), operated by UNAVCO, records deformation of the geologically diverse North America western plate boundary, with subnetworks of instruments concentrated at selected active and potentially active volcanoes. These sensors record deformation and earthquakes and allow monitoring agencies and researchers to analyze changes in ground motion and seismicity. The intraplate volcanoes at Yellowstone and Long Valley are characterized by uplift/subsidence cycles, high seismicity, and hydrothermal activity but there have been no historic eruptions at either volcano. PBO maintains dense GPS networks of 20-25 stations at each of these volcanoes, with an additional 5 boreholes at Yellowstone containing tensor strainmeters, short-period seismometers, and borehole tiltmeters. Subduction zone volcanoes in the Aleutian Arc have had multiple historic eruptions, and PBO maintains equipment at Augustine (8 GPS), Akutan (8 GPS, 4 tiltmeters), and Unimak Island (14 GPS, 8 tiltmeters). The Unimak stations are at the active Westdahl and Shishaldin edifices and the nearby, inactive Isanotski volcano. In the Cascade Arc, PBO maintains networks at Mount St. Helens (15 GPS, 4 borehole strainmeters and seismometers, 8 borehole tiltmeters), Shasta (7 GPS, 1 borehole strainmeter and seismometer), and Lassen Peak (8 GPS). Data from many of these stations in the Pacific Northwest and California are also provided as realtime streams of raw and processed data. Real-time GPS data, along with high-rate GPS data, will be an important new resource for detecting and studying future rapid volcanic deformation events and earthquakes. UNAVCO works closely with the USGS Volcano Hazards Program, archiving data from USGS GPS stations in Alaska, Cascadia, and Long Valley. The PBO and USGS networks combined provide more comprehensive coverage than PBO alone, particularly of the Cascade Arc, where the USGS maintains a multiple instruments near each volcano. Ground-based instruments are supplemented by remote sensing data sets. UNAVCO supports the acquisition of InSAR and LiDAR imaging data, with archiving and distribution of these data provided by UNAVCO and partner institutions. We provide descriptions and access information for geodetic data from the PBO volcano subnetworks and their applications to monitoring for scientific and public safety objectives. We also present notable examples of activity recorded by these instruments, including the 2004-2010 accelerated uplift episode at the Yellowstone caldera and the 2006 Augustine eruption.

publication date

  • 2013

presented at event