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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 02 Aug 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Analysis of properties of the 19 February 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sinabung in S5P/TROPOMI and Himawari satellite data

Adrianus de Laat1, Margarita Vazquez-Navarro2, Nicolas Theys3, and Piet Stammes1 Adrianus de Laat et al.
  • 1KNMI, de Bilt, 3731 GK, the Netherlands
  • 2DLR, Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Wessling, Germany (currently at EUMETSAT)
  • 3Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB), Brussels, 1180, Belgium

Abstract. This study presents an analysis of TROPOMI cloud heights as a proxy for volcanic plume heights in the presence of absorbing aerosols and sulfur dioxide for the 19 February 2018 eruption plume of the Sinabung volcano on Sumatra, Indonesia.

Comparison with CALIPSO satellite data shows that all three TROPOMI cloud height data products based on oxygen absorption which are considered here (FRESCO, ROCINN, O22CLD) provide volcanic ash heights comparable to heights measured by CALIPSO for optically thick volcanic ash clouds. FRESCO and ROCINN heights are very similar with only differences for FRESCO cloud top heights above 14 km altitude. O22CLD cloud top heights unsurprisingly fall below those of FRESCO and ROCINN, as the O22CLD retrieval is less sensitive to cloud top heights above 10 km altitude. For optically thin volcanic ash clouds, i.e. when Earth’s surface or clouds at lower altitudes shine through the volcanic ash cloud, retrieved heights fall below the volcanic ash heights derived from CALIPSO data.

Evaluation of corresponding Himawari geostationary volcanic ash height retrievals based on InfraRed (IR) brightness temperature differences (ΔBT) reveals that for this particular eruption the ΔBT volcanic ash signature – widely used for detection of volcanic ash in geostationary satellite data – changes to a ΔBT ice crystal signature for the part of the ash plume reaching the upper troposphere beyond 10 km altitude several hours after the start of the eruption and which TROPOMI clearly characterizes as volcanic (SO2 > 1 DU and AAI > 4 or more conservatively SO2 > 10). The presence of ice in volcanic ash clouds is known to prevent the detection of volcanic ash based on broadband geostationary satellite data. TROPOMI does not suffer from this effect, and can provide valuable and accurate information about volcanic ash clouds and ash top heights in cases where commonly used geostationary IR measurements of volcanic ash fail.

Adrianus de Laat et al.

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Adrianus de Laat et al.

Adrianus de Laat et al.


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Short summary
TROPOMI satellite measurements can accurately determine the height of thick volcanic ash clouds from a short-lived volcanic eruption of the Sinabung volcano in Indonesia. Standard geostationary satellite detection of volcanic ash was limited due to the presence of water ice in the upper parts of volcanic ash clouds, a known issue. The TROPOMI satellite measurements do not suffer from this limitation, hence can provide information where standard geostationary volcanic ash detection is limited.
TROPOMI satellite measurements can accurately determine the height of thick volcanic ash clouds...