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Report on Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989) — March 1982

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 7, no. 3 (March 1982)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989) Volcanic cloud remains in stratosphere; source still uncertain

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1982. Report on Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 7:3. Smithsonian Institution.



Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989)

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


The widely-distributed volcanic aerosol cloud remained in the lower stratosphere through early April. Since 29 January, each lidar measurement at MLO has detected the cloud. As of 9 April, it was centered at about 18 km altitude (with a peak backscattering ratio of 1.6) and was about 2 km thick. A balloon flight the first week in April from Laramie, Wyoming showed a broad layer centered at 18 km altitude. From Hampton, Virginia, lidar data 8 April showed a 3-km-thick layer centered at about 17 km altitude (backscattering ratio about 1.6). The cloud has also been intermittently present over Toronto, Canada (43.6°N, 70.5°W) since early March.

A NASA sampling aircraft flew S from San Francisco 18 March, and collected about 20 times the normal concentration of H2SO4 from a layer at the base of the stratosphere. Silicate particles about 0.25 µm in diameter were present both as discrete fragments and within the acid droplets. Chemical analysis of these particles showed that they contained no Na, and their Si/Al ratio was consistent with a basaltic composition. Additional sampling flights are planned in mid-April by NASA and LASL.

No eruption can be unequivocally identified as the source for the cloud. Careful inspection of satellite images has yielded no large eruption clouds that had gone unreported from the ground, but cloudy weather often obscured volcanically active areas of the world. The best candidate appears to be Pagan (18.13°N, 145.80°E), where moderate explosive activity was reported in early January. However, no ground observations are available between 6 January and 8 February, and the source eruption for the cloud probably occurred in mid-January. Careful inspection of images from the Japanese geostationary weather satellite by Yosihiro Sawada showed a possible volcanic cloud from Pagan 14 January at 1900 local time (0900 GMT), but interference from weather clouds made this impossible to confirm. Sawada observed a similar feature on an image returned at 2200 local time 19 January 1981, the same day that visiting islanders reported explosive activity.

[Unpublished data from NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS), which is sensitive to the SO2 that is emitted by most eruptions, strongly suggest that this cloud was ejected by Nyamuragira (Zaire) during the initial explosive phase of its December 1981-January 1982 eruption.]

Information Contacts: R. Chuan, Brunswick Corp.; Y. Sawada, Meteorological Research Inst., Japan; N. Banks, USGS-HVO, HI; K. Coulson, MLO; W. Fuller, NASA, VA; D. Hofmann, Univ. of Wyoming; B. Ragent, NASA, CA; W. Evans, ARPX-AES, Downsview, Canada.