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No More Nasty Surprises With AI's Help

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More than half of Earth's active volcanoes are not instrumentally monitored. This can lead to outbreaks that could at least theoretically warn people without triggering an alarm. In a first and still early step on the way to a volcano warning system, a new volcanic monitoring platform was created in a research project led by Sébastien Valade of the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin) and the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam. Artificial intelligence "analyzed. By testing recent events, Valade and his colleagues showed that their MOUNTS platform (Monitoring Unrest from Space) can combine multiple datasets with different types of data for full volcanic monitoring. The results of the team were in the journalRemote Sensing released.

Of the 1500 active volcanoes worldwide, up to 85 break out each year. Because of the cost and uncertainties of maintaining volumetric instrumentation, less than half of active volcanoes are monitored with ground-based sensors, and even fewer are considered well-controlled. Volcanoes that are considered dormant or extinct are usually not observed instrumentally. But they can erupt unexpectedly and massively, as happened in 2008 at the Chaitén volcano in Chile, which awoke after 8,000 years of inactivity.

Eruptions are often accompanied by precursor signals

Satellites can provide crucial data when ground-based monitoring is limited or absent. Continuous long-term observations from space are the key to better recognize signs of geological unrest. Eruptions are often - though not always - accompanied by precursor signals that can take several hours to a few years. These signals may include changes in seismic behavior, soil deformations, gas emissions, rising temperatures, or a combination thereof.

"With the exception of seismicity, all of these phenomena can be monitored from space by using different wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, " says Sébastien Valade, head of the MOUNTS project. It is funded by GEO.X, a research network for geosciences founded in 2010 in Berlin and Potsdam, and carried out at the TU Berlin and the GFZ. " In the MOUNTS monitoring system, we use different satellite sensors to detect and measure changes in volcanoes, " adds Valade. " And we also included seismic data from GFZ's global GEOFON network and United States Geological Survey USGS data ."

Part of the project was to test whether "Artificial Intelligence" (AI) can be successfully integrated into the data analysis process. The AI ​​algorithms were mainly developed by Andreas Ley of the TU Berlin. For the automatic detection of large deformation events he used so-called artificial neural networks. The researchers trained them with computer-generated images that were modeled on real satellite imagery. From this large number of synthetic examples, the software learned to detect larger deformation events in real, previously unknown satellite data. This area of ​​data science is referred to as "machine learning."

"It was an important 'test balloon' for us to see how we can integrate machine learning into the system, " says Ley. " At the moment, our deformation detector solves only one task. Our vision is to integrate several AI tools for different tasks. Because these tools typically benefit from learning large amounts of data, we want them to continuously learn from all the data the system collects globally . "

MOUNTS monitors 17 volcanoes around the world

The main challenges facing Sébastien Valade and his co-authors were the handling of large amounts of data and software development issues. " But these problems are solvable, " says Valade. " I believe that automated monitoring systems using AI and data from multiple sources, such as remote sensing and ground-based sensors, in the not-too-distant future will help to make people more timely and reliable. "

The analysis currently provided by the MOUNTS monitoring platform already enables a comprehensive understanding of different processes in different climatic and volcanic environments around the world: from the spread of magma below the surface, through the distribution of volcanic material during the eruption, to the morphological changes of the affected areas and the emission of gases to the atmosphere. The researchers successfully tested MOUNTS for recent events such as the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia in 2018 or outbreaks in Hawaii and Guatemala.

Valade, S., Ley, A., Massimetti, F., D'Hondt, O., Laiolo, M., Coppola, D., Loibl, D., Hellwich, O., Walter, TR, 2019. Towards Global Volcano Monitoring Using Multisensor Sentinel Missions and Artificial Intelligence: The MOUNTS Monitoring System. Remote sensing . DOI: 10.3390 / rs11131528.

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