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Will an orbital volcano observatory finally become a reality?

Ramsey, M., A. J. L. Harris, and M. Watson (2022), Will an orbital volcano observatory finally become a reality?, Bull. Volc., 84, 6-13, doi:10.1007/s00445-021-01501-z.

In 2000 at the first AGU session in this decadal series, and a year after the launch of the Terra satellite as part of the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS), we discussed the prospects for infrared (IR) data to advance volcano science. There were high expectations despite none of the sensors on Terra (or any of the future EOS missions) being designed specifically for volcanology. Ten years later, we focused on the IR data from those sensors and their added value to high-profile eruptions. We also looked forward to 2020 and the promise of integrated networks of ground and orbital IR instruments operating in sensor webs to improve near real-time data collection critical for eruption forecasting and response. By 2010, the EOS-era sensors had provided a long-term record of volcanic activity; however, most were well past their design lifetimes. We noted, “The prospects for accurate volcanology from space in 2020 are therefore less clear, even if the need for such observations has never been more important,” which arguably proved true. At the 2020 session, we argued that a paradigm-shift in spaceborne volcanology will only come about if a dedicated orbital IR volcano observatory is launched in the next decade. Critically, the observatory needs to acquire hypertemporal IR data with the improved spectral and spatial resolutions required to analyze ongoing dynamic processes such as the mass flux rates feeding plumes and flows. This mission concept has been proposed and, if selected, would see science returned in time for the next AGU volcanology session in 2030.

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