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Satellite SO2 and ash measurements of Mount Spurr’s three 1992 volcanic clouds are compared with ground‐based observations to develop an understanding of the physical and chemical evolution of volcanic clouds. Each of the three eruptions with ratings of volcanic explosivity index three reached the lower stratosphere (14 km asl), but the clouds were mainly dispersed at the tropopause by moderate to strong (20–40 m/s) tropospheric winds. Three stages of cloud evolution were identified. First, heavy fallout of large (>500 μm) pyroclasts occurred close to the volcano (vent) during and immediately after the eruptions, and the cloud resembled an advected gravity current. Second, a much larger, highly elongated region marked by a secondary‐mass maximum occurred 150–350 km downwind in at least two of the three events. This was the result of aggregate fallout of a bimodal size distribution including fine (<25 >μm) ash that quickly depleted the solid fraction of the volcanic cloud. For the first several hundred kilometers, the cloud spread laterally, first as an intrusive gravity current and then by wind shear and diffusion as downwind cloud transport occurred at the windspeed (during the first 18–24 h). Finally, the clouds continued to move through the upper troposphere but began decreasing in areal extent, eventually disappearing as ash and SO2 were removed by meteorological processes. Total SO2 in each eruption cloud increased by the second day of atmospheric residence, possibly because of oxidation of coerupted H2S or possibly because of the effects of sequestration by ice followed by subsequent SO2 release during fallout and desiccation of ashy hydrometeors. SO2 and volcanic ash travelled together in all the Spurr volcanic clouds. The initial (18–24 h) area expansion of the clouds and the subsequent several days of drifting were successfully mapped by both SO2 (ultraviolet) and ash (infrared) satellite imagery.

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2001 by The University of Chicago. Publisher's version of record:

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Journal of Geology


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