Parameterizing Aggregation Rates: Results of cold temperature ice-ash hydrometeor experiments

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Leah M Courtland, Josef Dufek, Joshua S Mendez and Julian McAdams, Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus, Atlanta, GA, United States
Recent advances in the study of tephra aggregation have indicated that (i) far-field effects of tephra sedimentation are not adequately resolved without accounting for aggregation processes that preferentially remove the fine ash fraction of volcanic ejecta from the atmosphere as constituent pieces of larger particles, and (ii) the environmental conditions (e.g. humidity, temperature) prevalent in volcanic plumes may significantly alter the types of aggregation processes at work in different regions of the volcanic plume. The current research extends these findings to explore the role of ice-ash hydrometeor aggregation in various plume environments. Laboratory experiments utilizing an ice nucleation chamber allow us to parameterize tephra aggregation rates under the cold (0 to -50 C) conditions prevalent in the upper regions of volcanic plumes. We consider the interaction of ice-coated tephra of variable thickness grown in a controlled environment. The ice-ash hydrometers interact collisionally and the interaction is recorded by a number of instruments, including high speed video to determine if aggregation occurs. The electric charge on individual particles is examined before and after collision to examine the role of electrostatics in the aggregation process and to examine the charge exchange process. We are able to examine how sticking efficiency is related to both the relative abundance of ice on a particle as well as to the magnitude of the charge carried by the hydrometeor. We here present preliminary results of these experiments, the first to constrain aggregation efficiency of ice-ash hydrometeors, a parameter that will allow tephra dispersion models to use near-real-time meteorological data to better forecast particle residence time in the atmosphere.