PROJECT

Aerial Observations of Volcanic Emissions

Overview

This project uses innovative Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technologies (drones with miniaturized gas-sampling equipment) to collect volcanic gas measurements at Manam and Rabaul volcanoes in Papua New Guinea. These volcanoes are actively degassing, but little is known about them because their plumes are difficult to access using ground-based techniques. 

Led by Emma Liu of the University of Cambridge, an international team of volcanologists is deploying multiple drones outfitted with gas sensors, spectrometers, and sampling devices to acquire near-vent measurements of carbon dioxide and other gases. Their measurements will feed into the DECADE project, which aims to quantify the global flux of carbon from volcanoes. 

PNG 3
A fixed-wing drone carrying a Multi-GAS instrument to the summit of Manam Volcano. Credit: Emma Liu

Phase one of the project involves a two-week pilot campaign in October 2018 to work out logistics, secure permits, and develop a flight plan based on observations of the volcanoes.  In May 2019, a larger team will return to Papua New Guinea to fly the drones and collect gas emission measurements over three weeks.

The team includes scientists from the UK, Italy, USA, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Germany, and Costa Rica, uniting several groups working on volcanic aerial gas measurements around the world. Through this work at Papua New Guinea, they hope to optimize methods for data collection using equipped drones, and develop easily adoptable, standardized methods for future field deployments.
 

Research Questions

  1. How much carbon dioxide and other gases do Manam and Rabaul volcanoes emit? 
  2. What does the isotopic composition of carbon dioxide tell us about its source? 
  3. Can we integrate data from UAS into databases of ground- and satellite-based observations?
  4. Can we develop rigorous, internationally accepted protocols for using UAS to collect gas measurements at volcanoes? 
Liu and Wood
Emma Liu (left) and Kieran Wood with a multi-rotor drone on Rabaul Volcano. Image courtesy of Emma Liu.

 

Project Leaders

  • Emma Liu
    Emma Liu University of Cambridge, UK
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    Emma Liu
    Emma Liu
    University of Cambridge, UK
  • Kieran Wood
    Kieran Wood University of Bristol, UK
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    Kieran Wood
    Kieran Wood
    University of Bristol, UK
  • Marie Edmonds
    Marie Edmonds University of Cambridge, UK
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    Marie Edmonds
    Marie Edmonds
    University of Cambridge, UK

    Dr. Marie Edmonds, a reader in Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, is responsible for overall scientific and intellectual oversight of DCO's synthesis and integration activities. She is a mid-career researcher who has built a successful group focused on understanding volatile cycling in the solid Earth. She has a number of leadership roles within the Natural Environment Research Council (the United Kingdom’s primary funding agency) and the Geological Society of London. In addition to serving on DCO’s Executive Committee, Edmonds chairs DCO’s Synthesis Group 2019 and has served as co-chair of the Reservoirs and Fluxes community since November 2014.

  • Alessandro Aiuta, University of Palermo
    Alessandro Aiuppa University of Palermo, Italy
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    Alessandro Aiuta, University of Palermo
    Alessandro Aiuppa
    University of Palermo, Italy

    Dr. Alessandro Aiuppa is a full professor in the Department of Earth and Sea Sciences of the University of Palermo. He also serves as the coordinator of the PhD program in Earth and Sea Sciences. Aiuppa is a member of the Commission for Major Risks (Volcanic Risk Section) of the Civil Protection (Presidency of the Council of Ministers), and is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. For his research in Volcanic Gas Geochemistry, Aiuppa was awarded a grant in the Call for Ideas ERC-Starting Grant (Project "BRIDGE"; 2012-2015). In 2008, he was awarded the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth Interior (IAVCEI) Wager Medal in 2008 as best under-40 volcanologist. Since 2004, Auippa also has served as a research collaborator at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, where he collaborates in the geochemical monitoring activities of Italian active volcanoes.

  • Dr. Tobias Fischer
    Tobias Fischer University of New Mexico, USA
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    Dr. Tobias Fischer
    Tobias Fischer
    University of New Mexico, USA

    Dr. Tobias Fischer is a professor of volcanology and director of the Fluids and Volatiles Laboratory at the University of New Mexico. He also chairs the Board of Directors of DCO’s Carbon Observatory Deep Carbon Degassing (DCO-DECADE) international initiative that brings together scientists from about 11 countries to better understand degassing of carbon from active volcanoes and volcanic regions. His research focuses on volcanology with emphasis on active volcanism. He currently conducts research at volcanoes in Central America, the Aleutians, the East African Rift, and Antarctica. Fischer also serves on DCO’s Engagement Advisory Committee.

  • Tom Richardson
    Tom Richardson University of Bristol, UK
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    Tom Richardson
    Tom Richardson
    University of Bristol, UK
  • DCO Avatar
    Kila Mulina Rabaul Volcanological Observatory, Papua New Guinea
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    Kila Mulina
    Rabaul Volcanological Observatory, Papua New Guinea
  • Brendan McCormick Kilbride
    Brendan McCormick Kilbride University of Cambridge, UK
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    Brendan McCormick Kilbride
    Brendan McCormick Kilbride
    University of Cambridge, UK

    The majority of Brendan’s research has involved the use of satellite remote sensing to study longterm trends in volcanic sulfur dioxide gas emissions, from individual volcanoes and on the regional/global scale. After completing his doctorate at the University of Cambridge (with particular attention to emissions from volcanoes in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador, and the use of the Ozone Monitoring Instrument), Brendan spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, co-funded by the Deep Carbon Observatory. Since returning to Cambridge, he has undertaken work to reconcile satellite observations of syn-eruptive gas emissions and geodesy as part of the NERC-funded Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics. Brendan is currently working on data and samples acquired during a month-long field campaign in September to several volcanoes and geothermal fields in Papua New Guinea.

Participants

Contact

Dr. Emma Liu: ejl54@cam.ac.uk 

Manam Summit
Novel imagery of the summit of Manam following the recent large eruption in August 2018, and the first ever acquired using an unmanned aircraft. Two regions of strong degassing can be clearly identified in drone imagery. Image courtesy of Emma Liu

 

Updates

To the Finish Line: Sloan Foundation Awards Grants to DCO through 2019

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation approved three grants in October 2018, including Aerial Observations of Volcanic Gas Emissions, that support DCO activities through the end of the decadal program on 31 December 2019. DCO is immensely grateful to the Sloan Foundation for its generous support since 2009. Read more...

Expedition Papua New Guinea Begins: Blog

The newly funded “Aerial Observations of Volcanic Emissions from Unmanned Aerial Systems” field study, also known as Expedition PNG or #DCOdronesPNG on Twitter, got off to a flying start on Monday, 21 October 2018. Led by Emma Liu of the University of Cambridge, UK, expedition participants are using innovative unmanned aerial system (UAS) technologies (or drones) to collect volcanic gas measurements at Manam and Rabaul Volcanoes in Papua New Guinea. These strongly degassing volcanoes remain largely uncharacterized because their plumes are challenging to access using ground-based techniques. 

The team will be in the field through the end of October, returning for three more weeks in the spring of 2019.

Follow the team’s progress on the DCO Twitter account (@deepcarb), or check the blog for short posts from the field. 

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