Monitoring Volcano Ground Deformation with Electronic Distance Meters
Measuring the distance between benchmarks placed on a volcano tens to thousands of meters apart can sometimes pinpoint where and when magma is rising toward the surface. Rising magma will sometimes push overlying rocks upward or shove them aside. In either case, one part of the volcano may actually move horizontally relative to another part from as little as a few millimeters to as much as several tens of meters. The challenge in measuring such changes with an electronic distance meter is putting benchmarks in the right places and making frequent measurements between pairs of benchmarks.
What is an electronic distance meter?
An electronic distance meter is an instrument that both sends and receives an electromagnetic signal. Depending on the distance between the EDM and reflector, the wavelength of the returned signal will be out of phase with the transmitted signal. The instrument compares the phase of the transmitted and received signals and measures the phase difference electronically. There is a wide range of EDM capabilities in range and precision, but for volcano monitoring purposes, short-range (less than 10 km) to medium-range (less than 50 km) EDM's are typically used. Short-range EDM's transmit and receive the near visible infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum for measuring distances with an accuracy of about 5 mm.