Faculté des sciences

Airborne in-situ investigations of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash plume on Iceland and over north-western Germany with light aircrafts and optical particle counters

Weber, Klaus ; Eliasson, J. ; Vogel, A. ; Fischer, C. ; Pohl, T. ; Haren, G. van ; Meier, M. ; Grobéty, Bernard ; Dahmann, D.

In: Atmospheric Environment, 2011, vol. 48, p. 9-21

During the time period of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in April/May 2010 the Duesseldorf University of Applied Sciences has performed 14 research flights in situations with and without the volcanic ash plume over Germany. In parallel to the research flights in Germany three measurement flights have been performed by the University of Iceland in May 2010 over the western... Plus

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    Summary
    During the time period of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in April/May 2010 the Duesseldorf University of Applied Sciences has performed 14 research flights in situations with and without the volcanic ash plume over Germany. In parallel to the research flights in Germany three measurement flights have been performed by the University of Iceland in May 2010 over the western part of Iceland. During two of these flights the outskirts of the eruption plume were entered directly, delivering most direct measurements within the eruption plume during this eruptive event. For all the measurement flights reported here, light durable piston-motor driven aircrafts were used, which were equipped with optical particle counters for in-situ measurements. Real-time monitoring of the particle concentrations was possible during the flights. As different types of optical particle counters have been used in Iceland and Germany, the optical particle counters have been re-calibrated after the flights to the same standard using gravimetric reference methods and original Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash samples. In-situ measurement results with high spatial resolution, directly from the eruption plume in Iceland as well as from the dispersed and several days old plume over Germany, are therefore presented here for the first time. They are normalized to the same ash concentration calibration standard. Moreover, airborne particles could be sampled directly out of the eruption plume in Iceland as well as during the flights over Germany. During the research flights over Iceland from 9 May 2011 to 11 May 2011 the ash emitted from the vent of the volcano turned out to be concentrated in a narrow well-defined plume of about 10 km width at a distance of 45–60 km away from the vent. Outside this plume the airborne ash concentrations could be proved to be below 50 μg m−3 over western Iceland. However, by entering the outskirts of the plume directly the research aircraft could detect ash concentrations of up to 2000 μg m−3. On the other hand, the ash plume, which was analysed by research flights over Germany several thousand km away from the eruption vent, appeared to be significantly structured in horizontal and vertical directions. Different sub-plumes could be found. Peak concentrations of more than 330 μg m−3 could be detected. The results of the measurements within the ash plume over Germany were compared with the predictions of the London VAAC model. The range of ash concentrations found by the research aircraft in Germany were not in conflict with the calculations of concentration regimes by the London VAAC model. However, the in-situ measurements performed by the research aircraft were able to deliver information about the structure and composition of the ash plume, which could not be covered by the dispersion model. Therefore, light piston-motor driven aircrafts equipped with optical particle counters proved to be a very versatile tool for the real-time in-situ determination of the spatial extension of volcanic ash plumes, the ash particle size distributions and the particle mass concentrations. Moreover, all these parameters could be measured with a high horizontal and vertical spatial resolution. Therefore, these kinds of measurements can deliver immediate data for the validation and verification of dispersion models and can give direct in-situ information additional to LIDAR measurements and satellite observations. As the piston-motor driven aircrafts are able to operate even at elevated volcanic ash concentrations they can provide valuable ash concentration results for air traffic safety.