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Report on Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989) — April 1983

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 4 (April 1983)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989) Stratospheric aerosols reduce solar radiation; high latitude aerosols sampled

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1983. Report on Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 8:4. Smithsonian Institution.



Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989)

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Atmospheric scientists continued to monitor the stratospheric cloud ejected by El Chichón's March-April 1982 explosions. Poor weather plagued attempts to gather lidar data in Hawaii and Japan, but a few measurements were obtained. In Hawaii, declines were recorded in April for both peak and integrated backscatter, indicating decreases in the aerosol concentration within the densest layers and the cloud as a whole. In Japan, however, limited data showed a recovery of peak backscattering ratios to March levels, after a decline in early April.

Pyrheliometer data from Japan and Colorado show substantial reductions in direct solar radiation after the March-April 1982 injection of stratospheric aerosols. Japanese stations between 26.3°N and 43.3°N showed significant increases in turbidity and decreases in transmissivity since last autumn. These effects seemed to occur earlier at the southernmost station. Direct solar radiation first began to show a slight decline at Boulder, Colorado in July 1982 (about 2%) and was about 6% below the 1978 value in September (figure 2). The major decrease in direct solar radiation occurred in late October (around the 27th), with November and December 1982 having average values 13% and 20% less than the 1978 means. However, January-April 1983 data show increasing direct solar radiation, indicating a slow diminuition in cloud density over Boulder. Total radiation data (direct plus diffuse on a horizontal surface) show a much smaller effect. Changes to these data first became apparent in November with a decrease of slightly more than the 2% measurement/analytical noise, and the December 1982 values were about 3% below the December 1978 mean. Edwin Flowers noted that reductions in direct solar radiation caused by previous volcanic aerosol clouds were usually of short duration, interspersed with periods of normal transmission. However, once the effects of the El Chichón aerosols began to be observed, solar radiation values remained depressed, without periods of normal transmission, indicating the cloud's strong lateral uniformity.

Figure with caption Figure 2. Comparison of direct solar radiation (in watt-hours/m2) at Boulder, Colorado (40°N, 105.2°W) before and after the arrival of El Chichón aerosols. The dense cloud of H2SO4 droplets scatters sunlight, measureably reducing the amount that reaches the Earth's surface. Ratios (1982-83 divided by 1978-79 values) show little change before the appearance of a dense aerosol cloud over Colorado in late October 1982. A slight increase in direct solar radiation January-April 1983 suggests a slow diminution in aerosol density. The right-hand column shows the number of hours of measurement each month, 1982-83 and 1978-79 (left and right of slash, respectively). Courtesy of Edwin Flowers.

A cooperative NASA-NOAA effort, using real-time TOMS data from the Nimbus-7 polar orbiting satellite, identified episodes of tropospheric-stratospheric "folding" that brought stratospheric air to within 3 km of sea level in the arctic. During one of these events, on 23 March, a NOAA P3 Orion aircraft sampled stratospheric aerosols along the coast of Greenland on a flight between Thule (77.5°N, 69.3°W) and Söndre Strömfjord (67°N, 50.6°W). In 6 hours of sampling, mainly at about 4.5 km altitude, aerosols were collected with 9 different filter systems. Concentrations of 0.1 and 1.0 µm particles exceeded 2000/cm3 with occasional peak values to 5,000/cm3. These particles were predominantly droplets, probably of H2SO4. Larger (1-5 µm) fragmented particles were present in concentrations about 1/1000 of the smaller ones and were predominantly composed of Si, lesser amounts of Fe, and traces of Al. In scanning electron micrographs, these particles appeared similar to El Chichón ash collected on the ground shortly after the March-April 1982 explosions. Although the sampling system was designed to operate at 4.5 km altitude or lower, some aerosols were also collected at about 7.5 km, also in stratospheric air. Along with the droplets and fragmented particles, some NaCl was recovered, although in concentrations only 1/1,000-1/10,000 of the droplets. Salt had also been collected at 4.5 km, but Russell Schnell noted that at the lower altitude the source of the NaCl could have been sea water, extremely unlikely at 7.5 km. NaCl crystals were collected by NASA aircraft from the El Chichón cloud in April and May 1982. In tropospheric air, aerosol concentrations were 100/cm3 or less and included very few particles that looked volcanic.

H. H. Lamb reported increased evidence of stratospheric aerosols over Norwich, England. Since early March normal blue skies have been absent; clear sky colors range from milky blue at considerable distance from the sun to strongly increasing whiteness within 30°-50° of arc from the sun. Sky seen in gaps between clouds within 15°-30° of the sun has invariably been virtually white. During many evenings, particularly in March but continuing as of mid-April, the dominant sky color after sunset has been sepia brown to bronze. From Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Edward Brooks occasionally observed bands of volcanic aerosols from late March through late April, although brilliant dawn and twilight colors were less frequent than in previous months. In addition to colors observed shortly before sunrise and shortly after sunset, caused by illumination of aerosols in the lower stratosphere, material higher in the stratosphere sometimes resulted in colors long before sunrise and after sunset. On 23 March, SSW-NNE bands of aerosols were visible to 7° altitude in the WSW sky around sunset, and faint SSE-NNW aerosol bands below 5° in the ENE were illuminated during a 2-stage dawn the next day. Many sunrises and sunsets in late March were pale to nearly colorless. A brilliant sunset 4 April was followed by a 2-stage dawn on the 5th. Although dawn colors were nearly absent 7 April, faint brown, narrow, closely-spaced N-S bands of volcanic aerosols were seen at 15° altitude in the E; a colorful dusk that evening was also accompanied by brown N-S-trending aerosols. More aerosol bands were visible the next morning. A dense haze, probably stratospheric, was visible early 9 April as were gray N-S bands of haze that evening, accompanying chalky-appearing dawn and dusk colors that extended to 30-35° altitude. Pale dawns and twilights were observed when cloud conditions permitted 10-15 April, but brilliant colors reappeared at sunset 16 April and bands of aerosols were present at 3° altitude late on the 18th and early on the 19th. Neither bright colors nor aerosol bands were observed from sunset 19 April through the 21st.

Information Contacts: R. Schnell, NOAA/GMCC; E. Flowers, NOAA; T. Yamauchi, JMA, Japan; T. Fujita, Meteorological Research Inst., Japan; M. Hirono, Kyushu Univ., Japan; T. DeFoor, MLO; E. Brooks, Saudi Arabia; H. Lamb, Univ. of East Anglia, England.