Sulfur Dioxide in Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcanic Cloud as seen by AIRS
The eruptions of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced "Aya-fyatla-jo-kutl") volcano in May 2010 sent clouds of ash into the atmosphere, disrupting air travel in Northern Europe and around the world. Images made with data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, show sulfur dioxide released from the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. The measurements are of sulfur dioxide partial column abundance in units of milli-atm-cm, or Dobson Units (DU), determined from AIRS spectra that utilizes the strong 1363 cm-1 sulfur dioxide band.
The AIRS retrievals show sulfur dioxide residing in the atmosphere's upper troposphere/lower stratosphere, a region which includes aviation altitudes. Since late April, Eyjafjallajökull has been emitting copious amounts of sulfur dioxide as well as ash. For the period of May 9-11, the AIRS retrievals indicate total masses of 0.01-0.02 Tg (SO2).
Sulfur dioxide burden retrievals and image creation are by Dr. Fred Prata of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).
NASA works with other agencies on using satellite observations to aid in the detection and monitoring of aviation hazards caused by volcanic ash. The ingestion of ash particles from such clouds can result in engine failure for aircraft. More information on this NASA program is found on the web page at http://science.larc.nasa.gov/asap/research-ash.html.
More information about AIRS can be found at http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov.