The 2006 lava dome eruption of Merapi Volcano (Indonesia): Detailed analysis using MODIS TIR

Brett B. Carr, Amanda Clarke, Loÿc Vanderkluysen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Merapi is one of Indonesia's most active and dangerous volcanoes. Prior to the 2010 VEI 4 eruption, activity at Merapi during the 20th century was characterized by the growth and collapse of a series of lava domes. Periods of very slow growth were punctuated by short episodes of increased eruption rates characterized by dome collapse-generated pyroclastic density currents (PDCs). An eruptive event of this type occurred in May-June, 2006. For effusive eruptions such as this, detailed extrusion rate records are important for understanding the processes driving the eruption and the hazards presented by the eruption. We use thermal infrared (TIR) images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites to estimate extrusion rates at Merapi Volcano during the 2006 eruption using the method of Harris and Ripepe (2007). We compile a set of 75 nighttime MODIS images of the eruptive period to produce a detailed time series of thermal radiance and extrusion rate that reveal multiple phases of the 2006 eruption. These data closely correspond to the published ground-based observational record and improve observation density and detail during the eruption sequence. Furthermore, additional analysis of radiance values for thermal anomalies in Band 21 (λ = 3.959. μm) of MODIS images results in a new framework for detecting different styles of activity. We successfully discriminate among slow dome growth, rapid dome growth, and PDC-producing dome collapse. We also demonstrate a positive correlation between PDC frequency and extrusion rate, and provide evidence that extrusion rate can increase in response to external events such as dome collapses or tectonic earthquakes. This study represents a new method of documenting volcanic activity that can be applied to other similar volcanic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Eruption rate
  • Lava domes
  • Merapi
  • Pyroclastic density currents
  • Thermal remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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