Simulation of SEVIRI infrared channels: a case study from the Eyjafjallajökull April/May 2010 eruption
Infrared satellite images are widely and successfully used to detect and follow atmospheric ash from erupting volcanoes. We describe a new radiative transfer model framework for the simulation of infrared radiances, which can be compared directly with satellite images. This can be helpful to get insight into the processes that affect the satellite retrievals. As input to the radiative transfer model, the distribution of ash is provided by simulations with the FLEXPART Lagrangian particle dispersion model, meteorological cloud information is adopted from the ECMWF analysis and the radiative transfer modelling is performed with the MYSTIC 3-D radiative transfer model. The model framework is used to study an episode during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010. It is found that to detect ash by the reverse absorption retrieval technique, accurate representation of the ash particle size distribution is required. Detailed investigation of individual pixels displays the radiative effects of various combinations of ash, liquid water and ice clouds. In order to be clearly detectable, the ash clouds need to be located at some distance above other clouds. If ash clouds are mixed with water clouds or are located only slightly above water clouds, detection of the ash becomes difficult. Simulations were also made using the so-called independent pixel approximation (IPA) instead of the fully 3-D radiative transfer modelling. In the two simulations, different clouds (or different parts of the clouds) or the ground are effectively emitting radiation towards the instrument, thus causing differences in the brightness temperature of up to ± 25 K. The presented model framework is useful for further studies of the processes that affect satellite imagery and may be used to test both new and existing ash retrieval algorithms.