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Monitoring ice-capped active Volćan Villarrica, southern Chile, using terrestrial photography combined with automatic weather stations and global positioning systems

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Volcán Villarrica (39°25′12″S, 71°56′27″W; 2847 m a.s.l.) is an active ice-capped volcano located in the Chilean lake district. The surface energy balance and glacier frontal variations have been monitored for several years, using automatic weather stations and satellite imagery. In recent field campaigns, surface topography was measured using Javad GPS receivers. Daily changes in snow-, ice- and tephra-covered areas were recorded using an automatic digital camera installed on a rock outcrop. In spite of frequently damaging weather conditions, two series of consecutive images were obtained, in 2006 and 2007. These photographs were georeferenced to a resampled 90 m pixel size SRTM digital elevation model and the reflectance values normalized according to several geometric and atmospheric parameters. The resulting daily maps of surface albedo are used as input to a distributed glacier-melt model during a 12 day mid-summer period. The spatial pattern of cumulative melt is complex and controlled by the distribution of airfall and wind-blown tephra, with extremely high melt rates occurring downwind of the crater and exposed ash banks. The camera images are also used to visualize the pattern of glacier crevassing. The results demonstrate the value of terrestrial photography in understanding the energy and mass balance of the glacier, including the generation of meltwater, and the potential value of the technique for monitoring volcanic activity and potential hazards associated with ice–volcano interactions during eruptive activity.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2008

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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