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 cloud heights comparable to heights measured by CALIPSO for optically thick volcanic ash clouds. FRESCO and ROCINN heights are very similar, with the 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 cloud heights derived from CALIPSO data.
Evaluation of corresponding Himawari-8 geostationary infrared (IR) brightness temperature differences (ΔBTs) – a signature for detection of volcanic ash clouds in geostationary satellite data and widely used as input for quantitative volcanic ash cloud retrievals – reveals that for this particular eruption the ΔBT volcanic ash signature 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 – Dobson units – and AAI > 4 – absorbing aerosol index – or, more conservatively, SO2 > 10). The presence of ice in volcanic ash clouds is known to prevent the detection of volcanic ash clouds 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 clouds fail.
ATJ de, M Vazquez-Navarro, N Theys, P Stammes. Analysis of properties of the 19 February 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sinabung in S5P/TROPOMI and HIMAWARI satellite data,
Status: published, Journal: Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, Volume: 20, Year: 2020, First page: 1203, Last page: 1217, doi: 10.5194/nhess-20-1203-2020