The emplacement of the active lava flow at Sinabung Volcano, Sumatra, Indonesia, documented by structure-from-motion photogrammetry

Brett B. Carr, Amanda Clarke, Ramon Arrowsmith, Loÿc Vanderkluysen, Bima Eko Dhanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


An effusive eruption at Sinabung Volcano in Indonesia began in December 2013. We use structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetric techniques to create digital elevation models (DEMs) of the active lava flow. We build DEMs from photographs taken during two separate time periods and from two separate low-cost handheld cameras and compare them with a pre-eruption DEM to assess the quality and accuracy of photogrammetric DEMs created using different cameras, calculate flow volume and long-term average effusion rate, and document changes in flow morphology. On September 22nd, 2014, the lava flow was 2.9 km long and had a volume of 1.03 ± 0.14 × 108 m3, leading to an estimated time-averaged discharge rate of 4.8 ± 0.6 m3 s−1. Differencing the photogrammetric DEMs shows that during the two-week field campaign, topographic changes of the flow occurred in zones along the flow front and on the upper flank, a finding supported by relatively high temperatures in corresponding thermal images. The deformation can be explained by active advance at the flow front and development of instabilities and collapse on the upper flanks. Large pyroclastic density currents associated with gravitational collapse of upper-flank instabilities in October 2014 and June 2015 were caused by lava growing over ridges that had initially confined the flow to a pre-existing channel. This work demonstrates the ability of SfM photogrammetry to measure or identify the lava flow volume, time-averaged discharge rate, flow emplacement rate and style, as well as the development of gravitational instabilities. Our results show the potential of SfM photogrammetry as a cost- and time-effective method of repeatedly measuring active volcanic features and monitoring hazards at Sinabung and during similar eruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-172
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019


  • Lava domes
  • Lava flows
  • Photogrammetry
  • Silicic volcanism
  • Sinabung
  • Structure-from-motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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