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This paper is a detailed study of remote sensing data from the total ozone mapping spectrometer (TOMS) and the advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) satellite detectors, of the 1982 eruption of El Chichón, Mexico. The volcanic cloud/atmosphere interactions in the first four days of this eruption were investigated by combining ultraviolet retrievals to estimate the mass of sulfur dioxide in the volcanic cloud [Krueger et al., 1995] with thermal infrared retrievals of the size, optical depth, and mass of fine-grained (1–10 μm radius) volcanic ash [Wen and Rose, 1994]. Our study provides the first direct evidence of gravitational separation of ash from a stratospheric, gas-rich, plinian eruption column and documents the marked differences in residence times of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide in volcanic clouds. The eruption column reached as high as 32 km [Carey and Sigurdsson, 1986] and was injected into an atmosphere with a strong wind shear, which allowed for an observation of the separation of sulfur dioxide and volcanic ash. The upper, more sulfur dioxide-rich part of the cloud was transported to the west in the stratosphere, while the fine-grained ash traveled to the south in the troposphere. The mass of sulfur dioxide released was estimated at 7.1 × 109 kg with the mass decreasing by approximately 4% 1 day after the peak. The mass of fine-grained volcanic ash detected was estimated at 6.5 × 109 kg, amounting to about 0.7% of the estimated mass of the ash which fell out in the mapped ash blanket close to the volcano. Over the following days, 98% of this remaining fine ash was removed from the volcanic cloud, and the effective radius of ash in the volcanic cloud decreased from about 8 μm to about 4 μm.

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Copyright 1999 by the American Geophysical Union. Publisher's version of record:

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Geophysical Research Letters


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