Water is the dominant component of volcanic gas emissions, and water phase transformations, including the formation of ice, can be significant in the dynamics of volcanic clouds. The effectiveness of volcanic ash particles as ice-forming nuclei (IN) is poorly understood and the sparse data that exist for volcanic ash IN have been interpreted in the context of meteorological, rather than volcanic clouds. In this study, single-particle freezing experiments were carried out to investigate the effect of ash particle composition and surface area on water drop freezing temperature. Measured freezing temperatures show only weak correlations with ash IN composition and surface area. Our measurements, together with a review of previous volcanic ash IN measurements, suggest that fine-ash particles (equivalent diameters between approximately 1 and 1000 μm) from the majority of volcanoes will exhibit an onset of freezing between ∼250–260 K. In the context of explosive eruptions where super-micron particles are plentiful, this result implies that volcanic clouds are IN-rich relative to meteorological clouds, which typically are IN-limited, and therefore should exhibit distinct microphysics. We can expect that such “overseeded” volcanic clouds will exhibit enhanced ice crystal concentrations and smaller average ice crystal size, relative to dynamically similar meteorological clouds, and that glaciation will tend to occur over a relatively narrow altitude range.
Journal of Geophysical Research
Durant, Adam J.; Shaw, R. A.; Rose, William I.; Mi, Y.; and Ernst, G. G. J., "Ice nucleation and overseeding of ice in volcanic clouds" (2008). Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences Publications. 29.