ArcGIS Online

Map in a minute: Map volcanic activity using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Living Atlas


Some capabilities detailed here are currently only supported in Map Viewer Classic. These will be available in a future release of Map Viewer.

In the news: The USGS estimates there are approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanoes across the globe. Recent volcanic events have made volcanoes a very hot news topic. Spain’s Cumbre Vieja Volcano, on the island of La Palma, has been erupting for about a month, with lava flows having engulfed and destroyed nearly 1,500 homes and buildings. In Hawaii, Kīlauea Volcano is once again active, with its inner crater—Halemaʻumaʻu—erupting from a vent along its western wall.


Make a map of volcanic activity

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World includes authoritative live feeds and other content that helps you learn more about volcanic activity around the world. Follow these steps to make your own map of volcanic activity in a minute (or less) using ArcGIS Online and Living Atlas.

Step 1 — Sign in to your ArcGIS account and open Map Viewer Classic. Note that some functionality used in these steps is not yet supported in the new Map Viewer.

Step 2 – Navigate to the Halemaumau Crater. This location is used because it is currently active at the time this blog article was written. You can use any another location and follow the same steps.

In Search, begin enter Halemaumau to find the crater.

Step 3 — Click Add, then Browse Living Atlas Layers.


Zoom out to get an overview of the area surrounding the Kilauea Crater.

Kilauea Crater

Step 3 – Add the Sentinel-2 imagery.

Click Add, then Browse Living Atlas Layers.

Browse Living Atlas Layers

Search for “imagery” and scroll down to locate the Sentinel-2 layer, then click + to add the layer to your map. You can also search for “Sentinel-2.”


Tip: To learn more about any layer, click the layer title to View item details.

View item details

From the Sentinel-2 Views item details we can learn that it is multispectral, multitemporal global imagery obtained via two satellites placed in the same orbit by the European Space Agency, and phased 180 degrees from each other. Every location on the planet is revisited every 5 days. This Living Atlas imagery layer pulls content directly from the source Sentinel-2 archive on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and is updated daily (though the most recent imagery available may be several days old).

Your map should look similar to the map shown below:

Sentinel-2 imagery

Step 4 – Remove the default filter on the imagery.

The default filter on the Sentinel-2 layer will display the clearest imagery available by date. You will want to search for all imagery around the dates of any volcanic activity, even smoke or cloud-filled imagery, so remove the filter so all imagery will be available. After adding the layer, click the Filter icon to display the current filter, and remove it.

Remove filters

Step 5 – Search for available imagery. Click options (…) and choose Image Filter.

Image Filter

Step 6 – Add the desired imagery as a new layer.

Adjust the time slider to see the available dates. Hover over each to display the coverage footprint in yellow on the map. Identify the date, then select the image that covers your area of interest best. In this example we chose Sentinel-2 imagery acquired on October 4, 2021. Click Add As A New Layer to add the imagery to your map, then click Done to return to Contents.

Image filter

Step 7 – Adjust the image display.

To glean more information from multispectral imagery like Sentinel-2, you can choose a renderer that highlights specific characteristics of the imagery. For example, you can choose renderers that highlight healthy vegetation, geology, moist areas, and more.

The default renderer is Natural Color with DRA (Dynamic Range Adjustment). Short-wave Infrared is appropriate for viewing active fires and hot spots, even through clouds or smoke.

From the layer options, choose Image Display.

Image Display

Step 7 – From the list of renderers, choose Short-wave Infrared with DRA.


Click Apply, then Close. Using Short-wave Infrared we can clearly see the hot spot of activity within the Kilauea Crater.

Short wave infrared

Technically, our volcanic activity map is finished in well under a minute, and shows the recent activity in Kilauea’s inner crater.

Step 8 – To provide additional context, add the MODIS and VIIRS live feeds.

Use “hotspot” or similar in search, or enter “MODIS” and “VIIRS” to find the layers. Click the + to add them to your map.


From the item details, we can learn the following:

Satellite (MODIS) Thermal Hotspots and Fire Activity shows where high thermal activity is occurring. Thermal activity is detected by sensors on board NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites and is published as a live feed containing data collected within the last 48 hours. The feed is updated every 30 minutes.

Satellite (VIIRS) Thermal Hotspots and Fire Activity shows thermal activity detected by the VIIRS sensors on the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. The layers is published as a live feed and is updated every 15 minutes.

When finished, your map should look similar to the one shown below:

Crater with VIIRS and MODIS


Finalize your map

You can experiment with different basemaps and other settings until you get the desired results for your final map. Below, the basemap has been switched to a gray multi-directional hillshade and the Sentinel imagery has been adjusted with approximately 40% transparency.

Final Kilauea map
View larger image

You can apply the same workflows above to other areas of volcanic activity. For example, below is the Cumbre Vieja Volcano lava flow on the island of La Palma.

Cumbre Vieja Volcano
View larger image


More information

For more information see

About the author

Corporate technology evangelist and advocate at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping customers succeed with the ArcGIS system. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Email or connect on LinkedIn (

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