Articles | Volume 9, issue 11
Research article
09 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 09 Nov 2016

Retrieval of ash properties from IASI measurements

Lucy J. Ventress, Gregory McGarragh, Elisa Carboni, Andrew J. Smith, and Roy G. Grainger

Abstract. A new optimal estimation algorithm for the retrieval of volcanic ash properties has been developed for use with the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI). The retrieval method uses the wave number range 680–1200 cm−1, which contains window channels, the CO2 ν2 band (used for the height retrieval), and the O3 ν3 band.

Assuming a single infinitely (geometrically) thin ash plume and combining this with the output from the radiative transfer model RTTOV, the retrieval algorithm produces the most probable values for the ash optical depth (AOD), particle effective radius, plume top height, and effective radiating temperature. A comprehensive uncertainty budget is obtained for each pixel. Improvements to the algorithm through the use of different measurement error covariance matrices are explored, comparing the results from a sensitivity study of the retrieval process using covariance matrices trained on either clear-sky or cloudy scenes. The result showed that, due to the smaller variance contained within it, the clear-sky covariance matrix is preferable. However, if the retrieval fails to pass the quality control tests, the cloudy covariance matrix is implemented.

The retrieval algorithm is applied to scenes from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, and the retrieved parameters are compared to ancillary data sources. The ash optical depth gives a root mean square error (RMSE) difference of 0.46 when compared to retrievals from the MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument for all pixels and an improved RMSE of 0.2 for low optical depths (AOD < 0.1). Measurements from the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) flight campaigns are used to verify the retrieved particle effective radius, with the retrieved distribution of sizes for the scene showing excellent consistency. Further, the plume top altitudes are compared to derived cloud-top altitudes from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) instrument and show agreement with RMSE values of less than 1 km.

Short summary
The detection of volcanic ash plumes and knowledge of their properties have been of increasing interest due to the effect ash particles can have on the aviation industry. A new method is shown for use with hyperspectral satellite instruments, such as the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer, to derive optical and physical properties of volcanic ash. The results are compared to ancillary data sources, showing good agreement, which indicates better characterisation of volcanic plumes.