Earth  ID: 12221

Tracking Volcanic Ash With Satellites

Volcano eruptions can wreak havoc on airplanes that fly through the clouds of ash and sulfur dioxide. The ash, in particular, can destroy a jet engine and even cause it to fail mid-flight. However, it can be difficult to detect the ash clouds, because they often look like ordinary rain clouds on radar and to the pilot's eye. To be cautious, volcanic eruptions are given a wide berth, leading to costly delays and cancellations.

NASA scientist Nickolay Krotkov is developing a new way to map the full three-dimensional structure of the volcanic cloud. The NASA/NOAA/DoD Suomi NPP satellite maps the concentration of sulfur dioxide and volcanic aerosols using the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS). After it passes the volcanic plume, the OMPS Limb Profiler looks backwards and measures the vertical profile of the cloud in three separate slices.

The location and height of the particles, as well as the amount of sulfur dioxide, is being integrated into models of weather patterns to forecast the spread of the volcanic cloud. The high resolution of the vertical profiles allows a more accurate forecast in the days, weeks, and months after an eruption, which could reduce airline cancellations and re-routing costs.

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Matthew R. Radcliff (USRA): Lead Producer
Aaron E. Lepsch (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Kel Elkins (USRA): Lead Animator
Nickolay Krotkov (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Eric J. Hughes (UMD): Scientist
Jefferson Beck (USRA): Narrator
Audrey Haar (Telophase): Writer
Matthew R. Radcliff (USRA): Writer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Music: "Dangerous Clouds" by Guy & Zab Skornik [SACEM]

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Suomi NPP

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Narrated Movies

DLESE >> Atmospheric science
SVS >> Sulfur Dioxide
SVS >> Volcano
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Aerosols
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Aerosols >> Aerosol Extinction
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Atmosphere >> Atmospheric Chemistry/Sulfur Compounds >> Sulfur Dioxide
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version