The age of past lava flows is crucial information for evaluating the hazards and risks posed by effusive volcanoes, but traditional dating methods are expensive and time-consuming. This study proposes an alternative statistical dating method based on remote sensing observations of tropical volcanoes by exploiting the relationship between lava flow age and vegetation cover. First, the factors controlling vegetation density on lava flows, as represented by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), were investigated. These factors were then integrated in pixel-based multi-variable regression models of lava flow age to derive lava flow age maps. The method was tested at a pixel scale on three tropical African volcanoes with considerable recent effusive activity: Nyamuragira (Democratic Republic of Congo), Mt Cameroon (Cameroon) and Karthala (the Comoros). Due to different climatic and topographic conditions, the parameters of the spatial modeling are volcano-specific. Validation suggests that the obtained statistical models are robust and can thus be applied for estimating the age of unmodified undated lava flow surfaces for these volcanoes. When the models are applied to fully vegetated lava flows, the results should be interpreted with caution due to the saturation of NDVI. In order to improve the accuracy of the models, when available, spatial data on temperature and precipitation should be included to directly represent climatic variation.
|Journal||Earth Surface Processes and Landforms|
|Early online date||7 Nov 2017|
|Publication status||Early online - 7 Nov 2017|