An adaptation of the CO2 slicing technique for the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer to obtain the height of tropospheric volcanic ash clouds
Ash clouds are a geographically far-reaching hazard associated with volcanic eruptions. To minimise the risk that these pose to aircraft and to limit disruption to the aviation industry, it is important to closely monitor the emission and atmospheric dispersion of these plumes. The altitude of the plume is an important consideration and is an essential input into many models of ash cloud propagation. CO2 slicing is an established technique for obtaining the top height of aqueous clouds, and previous studies have demonstrated that there is potential for this method to be used for volcanic ash. In this study, the CO2 slicing technique has been adapted for volcanic ash and applied to spectra obtained from the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI). Simulated ash spectra are first used to select the most appropriate channels and then demonstrate that the technique has merit for determining the altitude of the ash. These results indicate a strong match between the true heights and CO2 slicing output with a root mean square error (RMSE) of less than 800 m. Following this, the technique was applied to spectra obtained with IASI during the Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn eruptions in 2010 and 2011 respectively, both of which emitted ash clouds into the troposphere, and which have been extensively studied with satellite imagery. The CO2 slicing results were compared against those from an optimal estimation scheme, also developed for IASI, and a satellite-borne lidar is used for validation. The CO2 slicing heights returned an RMSE value of 2.2 km when compared against the lidar. This is lower than the RMSE for the optimal estimation scheme (2.8 km). The CO2 slicing technique is a relatively fast tool and the results suggest that this method could be used to get a first approximation of the ash cloud height, potentially for use for hazard mitigation, or as an input for other retrieval techniques or models of ash cloud propagation.