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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


This paper describes a new discrete wavelength algorithm developed for retrieving volcanic sulfur dioxide (SO2) vertical column density (VCD) from UV observing satellites. The Multi-Satellite SO2 algorithm (MS_SO2) simultaneously retrieves column densities of sulfur dioxide, ozone, and Lambertian effective reflectivity (LER) and its spectral dependence. It is used operationally to process measurements from the heritage Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) onboard NASA's Nimbus-7 satellite (N7/TOMS: 1978–1993) and from the current Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) onboard Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR: 2015–ongoing) from the Earth–Sun Lagrange (L1) orbit. Results from MS_SO2 algorithm for several volcanic cases were assessed using the more sensitive principal component analysis (PCA) algorithm. The PCA is an operational algorithm used by NASA to retrieve SO2 from hyperspectral UV spectrometers, such as the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) onboard NASA's Earth Observing System Aura satellite and Ozone Mapping and Profiling Suite (OMPS) onboard NASA–NOAA Suomi National Polar Partnership (SNPP) satellite. For this comparative study, the PCA algorithm was modified to use the discrete wavelengths of the Nimbus-7/TOMS instrument, described in Sect. S1 of the Supplement. Our results demonstrate good agreement between the two retrievals for the largest volcanic eruptions of the satellite era, such as the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. To estimate SO2 retrieval systematic uncertainties, we use radiative transfer simulations explicitly accounting for volcanic sulfate and ash aerosols. Our results suggest that the discrete-wavelength MS_SO2 algorithm, although less sensitive than hyperspectral PCA algorithm, can be adapted to retrieve volcanic SO2 VCDs from contemporary hyperspectral UV instruments, such as OMI and OMPS, to create consistent, multi-satellite, long-term volcanic SO2 climate data records.

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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Atmospheric Measurement Techniques

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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