Articles | Volume 18, issue 7
Research article
06 Apr 2018
Research article |  | 06 Apr 2018

Reconstructing volcanic plume evolution integrating satellite and ground-based data: application to the 23 November 2013 Etna eruption

Matthieu Poret, Stefano Corradini, Luca Merucci, Antonio Costa, Daniele Andronico, Mario Montopoli, Gianfranco Vulpiani, and Valentin Freret-Lorgeril

Abstract. Recent explosive volcanic eruptions recorded worldwide (e.g. Hekla in 2000, Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, Cordón-Caulle in 2011) demonstrated the necessity for a better assessment of the eruption source parameters (ESPs; e.g. column height, mass eruption rate, eruption duration, and total grain-size distribution – TGSD) to reduce the uncertainties associated with the far-travelling airborne ash mass. Volcanological studies started to integrate observations to use more realistic numerical inputs, crucial for taking robust volcanic risk mitigation actions. On 23 November 2013, Etna (Italy) erupted, producing a 10 km height plume, from which two volcanic clouds were observed at different altitudes from satellites (SEVIRI, MODIS). One was retrieved as mainly composed of very fine ash (i.e. PM20), and the second one as made of ice/SO2 droplets (i.e. not measurable in terms of ash mass). An atypical north-easterly wind direction transported the tephra from Etna towards the Calabria and Apulia regions (southern Italy), permitting tephra sampling in proximal (i.e. ∼ 5–25 km from the source) and medial areas (i.e. the Calabria region, ∼ 160 km). A primary TGSD was derived from the field measurement analysis, but the paucity of data (especially related to the fine ash fraction) prevented it from being entirely representative of the initial magma fragmentation. To better constrain the TGSD assessment, we also estimated the distribution from the X-band weather radar data. We integrated the field and radar-derived TGSDs by inverting the relative weighting averages to best fit the tephra loading measurements. The resulting TGSD is used as input for the FALL3D tephra dispersal model to reconstruct the whole tephra loading. Furthermore, we empirically modified the integrated TGSD by enriching the PM20 classes until the numerical results were able to reproduce the airborne ash mass retrieved from satellite data. The resulting TGSD is inverted by best-fitting the field, ground-based, and satellite-based measurements. The results indicate a total erupted mass of 1.2  ×  109 kg, being similar to the field-derived value of 1.3  ×  109 kg, and an initial PM20 fraction between 3.6 and 9.0 wt %, constituting the tail of the TGSD.

Short summary
This study aims at proposing a method to better assess the initial magma fragmentation produced during explosive volcanic eruptions. We worked on merging field, radar, and satellite data to estimate the total grain-size distribution, which is used within simulations to reconstruct the tephra loading and far-travelling airborne ash dispersal. This approach is applied to 23 November 2013, giving the very fine ash fraction related to volcanic hazards (e.g. air traffic safety).
Final-revised paper