, Volume 74, Issue 10, pp 2383-2395
Date: 09 Nov 2012

Monitoring Etna volcanic plumes using a scanning LiDAR

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In this paper, we use data obtained from LiDAR measurements during an ash emission event on 15 November 2010 at Mt. Etna, in Italy, in order to evaluate the spatial distribution of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. A scanning LiDAR system, located at 7 km distance from the summit craters, was directed toward the volcanic vents and moved in azimuth and elevation to analyse different volcanic plume sections. During the measurements, ash emission from the North East Crater and high degassing from the Bocca Nuova Crater were clearly visible. From our analysis we were able to: (1) evaluate the region affected by the volcanic plume presence; (2) distinguish volcanic plumes containing spherical aerosols from those having non-spherical ones; and (3) estimate the frequency of volcanic ash emissions. Moreover, the spatial distribution of ash mass concentration was evaluated with an uncertainty of about 50 %. We found that, even during ash emission episodes characterised by low intensity like the 15 November 2010 event, the region in proximity of the summit craters should be avoided by air traffic operations, the ash concentration being greater than 4 × 10−3 g/m3. The use of a scanning permanent LiDAR station may usefully monitor the volcanic activity and help to drastically reduce the risks to aviation operations during the frequent Etna eruptions.

Editorial responsibility: J. Taddeucci