Articles | Volume 17, issue 7
Research article
03 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 03 Apr 2017

Quantifying the mass loading of particles in an ash cloud remobilized from tephra deposits on Iceland

Frances Beckett, Arve Kylling, Guðmunda Sigurðardóttir, Sibylle von Löwis, and Claire Witham

Abstract. On 16–17 September 2013 strong surface winds over tephra deposits in southern Iceland led to the resuspension and subsequent advection of significant quantities of volcanic ash. The resulting resuspended ash cloud was transported to the south-east over the North Atlantic Ocean and, due to clear skies at the time, was exceptionally well observed in satellite imagery. We use satellite-based measurements in combination with radiative transfer and dispersion modelling to quantify the total mass of ash resuspended during this event. Typically ash clouds from explosive eruptions are identified in satellite measurements from a negative brightness temperature difference (BTD) signal; however this technique assumes that the ash resides at high levels in the atmosphere. Due to a temperature inversion in the troposphere over southern Iceland during 16 September 2013, the resuspended ash cloud was constrained to altitudes of  <  2 km a.s.l. We show that a positive BTD signal can instead be used to identify ash-containing pixels from satellite measurements. The timing and location of the ash cloud identified using this technique from measurements made by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on board the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite agree well with model predictions using the dispersion model NAME (Numerical Atmospheric-dispersion Modelling Environment). Total column mass loadings are determined from the VIIRS data using an optimal estimation technique which accounts for the low altitude of the resuspended ash cloud and are used to calibrate the emission rate in the resuspended ash scheme in NAME. Considering the tephra deposits from the recent eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn as the potential source area for resuspension for this event, we estimate that  ∼  0.2 Tg of ash was remobilized during 16–17 September 2013.

Short summary
Ash deposits can be remobilized for years following a volcanic eruption, and the resulting resuspended ash clouds can pose a significant hazard to local populations and airports. The aim of this work is to improve our ability to forecast resuspended ash storms. We use satellite imagery to constrain the emission rate of resuspended particles in an atmospheric dispersion model used to forecast resuspension events in Iceland.
Final-revised paper