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Large-scale volcanic eruptions produce fine ash (< 200 μm) which has a long atmospheric residence time (1 hour or more) and can be transported great distances from the volcanic source, thus, becoming a hazard to aircraft and public health. Ash particles have irregular shapes, so data on particle shape, size, and terminal velocities are needed to understand how the irregular-shaped particles affect transport processes and radiative transfer measurements. In this study, a methodology was developed to characterize particle shapes, sizes , and terminal velocities for three ash samples of different compositions. The shape and size of 2,500 particles from 1) distal fallout (~100 km) of the October 14, 1974 Fuego eruption (basaltic), 2) the secondary maxima (~250 km) of the August 18, 1992 Spurr eruption (andesitic), and 3) the Miocene Ash Hollow member, Nebraska (rhyolitic) were measured using image analysis techniques. Samples were sorted into 10 to 19 terminal velocity groups (0.6-59.0 cm/s) using an air elutriation device. Grain size distributions for the samples were measured using laser diffraction. Aspect ratio, feret diameter, and perimeter measurements were found to be the most useful descriptors of how particle shape affects terminal velocity. These measurement values show particle shape differs greatly from a sphere (commonly used in models and algorithms). The diameters of ash particles were 10-120% larger than ideal spheres at the same terminal velocity, indicating that irregular particle shape greatly increases drag. Gas-adsorption derived surface areas are 1 to 2 orders of magnitude higher than calculated surface areas based on measured dimensions and simple geometry, indicating that particle shapes are highly irregular. Correction factors for surface area were derived from the ash sample measurements so that surface areas calculated by assuming spherical particle shapes can be corrected to reflect more realistic values.

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Journal of Geophysical Research


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