Space images show extent of Congo volcano devastation
Posted: February 3, 2002

New images from three NASA spacecraft chronicle the degree of devastation caused by the January 17th eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in Congo.

The eruption killed more than 100 people and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands more. At least 12,000 homes were destroyed in and around Goma, a city of half a million people on the north shore of Lake Kivu.

Top: Pre-eruption perspective view using SRTM and Landsat data. Bottom: Volcano and lava after eruption as displayed with SRTM, ASTER and Landsat data. Photos: NASA/JPL
The images combine data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or Aster, and Landsat to depict areas affected by the eruption of the approximately 3,469-meter (11,385 foot) volcano. The volcan is one of eight located in the East African Rift Valley on the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Included are both pre-eruption and post-eruption perspective views, a post-eruption map view and a pre-eruption stereoscopic view (anaglyph). The extent of lava flow is clearly visible in the post-eruption views.

The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission was flown aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour February 11-22, 2000. It used modified versions of the same instruments that comprised the Space Shuttle Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar that flew twice on Endeavour in 1994. The mission collected 3-D measurements of Earth's land surface using radar interferometry, which compares two radar images taken at slightly different locations to obtain elevation or surface- change information. To collect the data, engineers added a 60-meter (approximately 200-foot) mast, installed additional C-band and X-band antennas, and improved tracking and navigation devices.

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched December 18, 1999, on NASA's Terra satellite. With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region, and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), Aster will image Earth for the next six years to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of Aster will provide scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; evaluating wetlands; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.

Map view with lava. Photo: NASA/JPL
Landsat is a cooperative mission between NASA and the United States Geological Survey, Reston, Va. Landsat 7, launched April 15, 1999, is the latest in a series that began with Landsat 1 in 1972. The satellite is gathering data from Earth's land surface and surrounding coastal regions. Analysis of the data will provide scientists with new information on deforestation, receding glaciers and crop monitoring. Images are archived, processed and distributed by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is also responsible for day-to-day operations of the satellite.

NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is a long-term research and technology program designed to examine Earth's land, oceans, atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.