Apparent downwind depletion of volcanic SO < inf> 2 flux - Lessons from Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua

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A series of 707 measurements at Masaya in 2005, 2006, and 2007 reveals that SO2 emissions 15km downwind of the active vent appear to be ∼33% to ∼50% less than those measured only 5km from the vent. Measurements from this and previous studies indicate that dry deposition of sulfur from the plume and conversion of SO2 to sulfate aerosols within the plume each may amount to a maximum of 10% loss, and are not sufficient to account for the larger apparent loss measured. However, the SO2 measurement site 15 km downwind is located on a ridge over which local trade winds, and the entrained plume, accelerate. Greater wind speeds cause localized dilution of the plume along the axis of propagation. The lower concentrations of SO2 measured on the ridge therefore lead to calculations of lower fluxes when calculated at the same plume speed as measurements from only 5 km downwind, and is responsible for the apparent loss of SO2. Due to the importance of SO2 emission rates with respect to hazard mitigation, petrologic studies, and sulfur budget calculations, measured fluxes of SO2 must be as accurate as possible. Future campaigns to measure SO2 flux at Masaya and similar volcanoes will require individual plume speed measurements to be taken at each flux measurement site to compensate for dilution and subsequent calculation of lower fluxes. This study highlights the importance of a comprehensive understanding of a volcano's interaction with its surroundings, especially for low, boundary layer volcanoes. © Springer-Verlag 2008.

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Bulletin of Volcanology