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MISR observations of Etna volcanic plumes

Scollo, S., R. Kahn, D. L. Nelson, M. Coltelli, D. Diner, M. Garay, and V. J. Realmuto (2012), MISR observations of Etna volcanic plumes, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D06210, doi:10.1029/2011JD016625.

In the last twelve years, Mt. Etna, located in eastern Sicily, has produced a great number of explosive eruptions. Volcanic plumes have risen to several km above sea level and created problems for aviation and the communities living near the volcano. A reduction of hazards may be accomplished using remote sensing techniques to evaluate important features of volcanic plumes. Since 2000, the Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) on board NASA’s Terra spacecraft has been extensively used to study aerosol dispersal and to extract the three-dimensional structure of plumes coming from anthropogenic or natural sources, including volcanoes. In the present work, MISR data from several explosive events occurring at Etna are analyzed using a program named MINX (MISR INteractive eXplorer). MINX uses stereo matching techniques to evaluate the height of the volcanic aerosol with a precision of a few hundred meters, and extracts aerosol properties from the MISR Standard products. We analyzed twenty volcanic plumes produced during the 2000, 2001, 2002–03, 2006 and 2008 Etna eruptions, finding that volcanic aerosol dispersal and column height obtained by this analysis is in good agreement with ground-based observations. MISR aerosol type retrievals: (1) clearly distinguish volcanic plumes that are sulphate and/or water vapor dominated from ash-dominated ones; (2) detect even low concentrations of volcanic ash in the atmosphere; (3) demonstrate that sulphate and/or water vapor dominated plumes consist of smaller-sized particles compared to ash plumes. This work highlights the potential of MISR to detect important volcanic plume characteristics that can be used to constrain the eruption source parameters in volcanic ash dispersion models. Further, the possibility of discriminating sulphate and/or water vapor dominated plumes from ash-dominated ones is important to better understand the atmospheric impact of these plumes.

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Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)