A multidisciplinary effort to assign realistic source parameters to models of volcanic ash-cloud transport and dispersion during eruptions

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During volcanic eruptions, volcanic ash transport and dispersion models (VATDs) are used to forecast the location and movement of ash clouds over hours to days in order to define hazards to aircraft and to communities downwind. Those models use input parameters, called “eruption source parameters”, such as plume height H, mass eruption rate M, duration ̇ D, and the mass fraction m63 of erupted debris finer than about 4ϕ or 63 μm, which can remain in the cloud for many hours or days. Observational constraints on the value of such parameters are frequently unavailable in the first minutes or hours after an eruption is detected. Moreover, observed plume height may change during an eruption, requiring rapid assignment of new parameters. This paper reports on a group effort to improve the accuracy of source parameters used by VATDs in the early hours of an eruption. We do so by first compiling a list of eruptions for which these parameters are well constrained, and then using these data to review and update previously studied parameter relationships. We find that the existing scatter in plots of H versus Ṁyields an uncertainty within the 50% confidence interval of plus or minus a factor of four in eruption rate for a given plume height. This scatter is not clearly attributable to biases in measurement techniques or to wellrecognized processes such as elutriation from pyroclastic flows. Sparse data on total grain-size distribution suggest that the mass fraction of fine debris m63 could vary by nearly two orders of magnitude between small basaltic eruptions (∼0.01) and large silicic ones (N0.5). We classify eleven eruption types; four types each for different sizes of silicic and mafic eruptions; submarine eruptions; “brief” or Vulcanian eruptions; and eruptions that generate co-ignimbrite or co-pyroclastic flow plumes. For each eruption type we assign source parameters. We then assign a characteristic eruption type to each of the world's ∼1500 Holocene volcanoes. These eruption types and associated parameters can be used for ash-cloud modeling in the event of an eruption, when no observational constraints on these parameters are available.

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© 2009 Elsevier B.V. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2009.01.008

Publication Title

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research