Optical Properties of Volcanic Ash: Improving Remote Sensing Observations

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Patrick Whelley1, Peter Richard Colarco1, Valentina Aquila2, Nickolay Anatoly Krotkov3, Jacob E Bleacher3, William Brent Garry1, Kelsey E Young4, Adriana R Lima1, Jose-Vanderlei Martins4 and Simon A Carn5, (1)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)Johns Hopkins University, Earth and Planetary Science, Baltimore, MD, United States, (3)NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States, (5)Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, United States
Many times each year explosive volcanic eruptions loft ash into the atmosphere. Global travel and trade rely on aircraft vulnerable to encounters with airborne ash. Volcanic ash advisory centers (VAACs) rely on dispersion forecasts and satellite data to issue timely warnings. To improve ash forecasts model developers and satellite data providers need realistic information about volcanic ash microphysical and optical properties. In anticipation of future large eruptions we can study smaller events to improve our remote sensing and modeling skills so when the next Pinatubo 1991 or larger eruption occurs, ash can confidently be tracked in a quantitative way.

At distances >100km from their sources, drifting ash plumes, often above meteorological clouds, are not easily detected from conventional remote sensing platforms, save deriving their quantitative characteristics, such as mass density. Quantitative interpretation of these observations depends on a priori knowledge of the spectral optical properties of the ash in UV (>0.3µm) and TIR wavelengths (>10µm). Incorrect assumptions about the optical properties result in large errors in inferred column mass loading and size distribution, which misguide operational ash forecasts. Similarly, simulating ash properties in global climate models also requires some knowledge of optical properties to improve aerosol speciation. \

Recent research has identified a wide range in volcanic ash optical properties among samples collected from the ground after different eruptions. The database of samples investigated remains relatively small, and measurements of optical properties at the relevant particle sizes and spectral channels are far from complete. Generalizing optical properties remains elusive, as does establishing relationships between ash composition and optical properties, which are essential for satellite retrievals.

We are building a library of volcanic ash optical and microphysical properties. In this presentation we show preliminary results of the measured ash properties. We invite discussion of all aspects essential for building an optical ash database that can be used by modeling and remote sensing communities. If you have samples that you would like included, we would welcome their donation. Please visit the poster or email the authors.