Correcting the Record of Volcanic Stratospheric Aerosol Impact: Nabro and Sarychev Peak

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Michael D Fromm1, George P Kablick III1, Gerald E Nedoluha1, Elisa Carboni2, Roy Gordon Grainger2, James R Campbell3 and Jasper R Lewis4, (1)Naval Research Lab, Washington, DC, United States, (2)University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, (3)Naval Research Lab, Monterey, CA, United States, (4)Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, Baltimore, MD, United States
Since 2010 several papers have been published that reveal a pattern of discrepancies between stratospheric aerosol data from the OSIRIS instrument, and other measurements and model simulations of volcanic plumes from Kasatochi, Sarychev Peak, and Nabro volcanoes. OSIRIS measurements show two discrepancies, a post-eruption lag in aerosol onset/increase, and a low bias in maximum stratospheric aerosol optical depth. Assumed robustness of the OSIRIS data drove various conclusions, some controversial, such as the contention that the June 2011 Nabro plume was strictly tropospheric, and entered the stratosphere indirectly via the Asian monsoon. Those conclusions were driven by OSIRIS data and a Smithsonian Institution report of strictly tropospheric injection heights. We address the issue of Nabro’s eruption chronology and injection height, and the reasons for the OSIRIS aerosol discrepancies.

We lay out the time line of Nabro injection height with geostationary image data, and stratospheric plume evolution after eruption onset using retrievals of sulfur dioxide and sulfate aerosol. The observations show that Nabro injected sulfur directly into the stratosphere upon the initial eruption on 12/13 June, and again on 16 June 2011. Next, OSIRIS data are examined for non-volcanic and volcanically perturbed conditions. In non-volcanic conditions OSIRIS profiles systematically terminate 1-4 km above the tropopause. Additionally, OSIRIS profiles terminate when 750 nm aerosol extinction exceeds ~0.0025 km-1, a level that is commonly exceeded after volcanic injections.

Our findings largely resolve the discrepancies in published works involving OSIRIS aerosol data and offer a correction to the Nabro injection-height and eruption chronology.