Volcanic ash cloud retrieval by ground-based microwave weather radar

Document Type


Publication Date



The potential of ground-based microwave weather radar systems for volcanic ash cloud detection and quantitative retrieval is evaluated. The relationship between radar reflectivity factor, ash concentration, and fall rate is statistically derived for various eruption regimes and ash sizes by applying a radar-reflectivity microphysical model. To quantitatively evaluate the ash detectability by weather radars, a sensitivity analysis is carried out by simulating synthetic ash clouds and varying ash concentration and size as a function of the range. Radar specifications are taken from typical radar systems at S-, C-, and X-band. A prototype algorithm for volcanic ash radar retrieval (VARR) is discussed. Starting from measured single-polarization reflectivity, the statistical inversion technique to retrieve ash concentration and fall rate is based on two cascade steps, namely: 1) classification of eruption regime and volcanic ash category and 2) estimation of ash concentration and fall rate. Expected accuracy of the VARR algorithm estimates is evaluated using a synthetic data set. An application of the VARR technique is finally shown, taking into consideration the eruption of the Grinodotacutemsvoumltn volcano in Iceland on November 2004. Volume scan data from a Doppler C-band radar, which is located at 260 km from the volcano vent, are processed by means of the VARR algorithm. Examples of the achievable VARR products are presented and discussed.

Publisher's Statement

© 2006 IEEE. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/TGRS.2006.879116

Publication Title

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing