Articles | Volume 10, issue 5
Development and technical paper
17 May 2017
Development and technical paper |  | 17 May 2017

The operational eEMEP model version 10.4 for volcanic SO2 and ash forecasting

Birthe M. Steensen, Michael Schulz, Peter Wind, Álvaro M. Valdebenito, and Hilde Fagerli

Abstract. This paper presents a new version of the EMEP MSC-W model called eEMEP developed for transportation and dispersion of volcanic emissions, both gases and ash. EMEP MSC-W is usually applied to study problems with air pollution and aerosol transport and requires some adaptation to treat volcanic eruption sources and effluent dispersion. The operational set-up of model simulations in case of a volcanic eruption is described. Important choices have to be made to achieve CPU efficiency so that emergency situations can be tackled in time, answering relevant questions of ash advisory authorities. An efficient model needs to balance the complexity of the model and resolution. We have investigated here a meteorological uncertainty component of the volcanic cloud forecast by using a consistent ensemble meteorological dataset (GLAMEPS forecast) at three resolutions for the case of SO2 emissions from the 2014 Barðarbunga eruption. The low resolution (40 × 40 km) ensemble members show larger agreement in plume position and intensity, suggesting that the ensemble here does not give much added value. To compare the dispersion at different resolutions, we compute the area where the column load of the volcanic tracer, here SO2, is above a certain threshold, varied for testing purposes between 0.25 and 50 Dobson units. The increased numerical diffusion causes a larger area (+34 %) to be covered by the volcanic tracer in the low resolution simulations than in the high resolution ones. The higher resolution (10 × 10 km) ensemble members show higher column loads farther away from the volcanic eruption site in narrower clouds. Cloud positions are more varied between the high resolution members, and the cloud forms resemble the observed clouds more than the low resolution ones. For a volcanic emergency case this means that to obtain quickly results of the transport of volcanic emissions, an individual simulation with our low resolution is sufficient; however, to forecast peak concentrations with more certainty for forecast or scientific analysis purposes, a finer resolution is needed. The model is further developed to simulate ash from highly explosive eruptions. A possibility of increasing the number of vertical layers, achieving finer vertical resolution, as well as a higher model top, is included in the eEMEP version. Ash size distributions may be altered for different volcanic eruptions and assumptions. Since ash particles are larger than typical particles in the standard model, gravitational settling across all vertical layers is included. We attempt finally a specific validation of the simulation of ash and its vertical distribution. Model simulations with and without gravitational settling for the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption are compared to lidar observations over central Europe. The results show that with gravitation the centre of the ash mass can be 1 km lower over central Europe than without gravitation. However, the height variations in the ash layer caused by real weather situations are not captured perfectly well by either of the two simulations, playing down the role of gravitation parameterization imperfections. Both model simulations have on average an ash centre of mass below the observed values. Correlations between the observed and corresponding model centres of mass are higher for the model simulation with gravitational settling for four of the six stations studied here. The inclusion of gravitational settling is suggested to be required for a volcanic ash model.

Short summary
The operational emergency version of the EMEP MSC-W model for dispersion calculations of volcanic SO2 and ash is described. Additions and changes to the standard EMEP MSC-W are presented. Grid resolution dependencies for meteorological data and numerical diffusion are studied by investigating model results driven by ensemble meteorological data for volcanic SO2 emissions. The vertical ash layer sensitivity on gravitational settling is evaluated by comparing model results to lidar observations.