Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Development and technical paper
02 May 2016
Development and technical paper |  | 02 May 2016

Inverse transport modeling of volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions using large-scale simulations

Yi Heng, Lars Hoffmann, Sabine Griessbach, Thomas Rößler, and Olaf Stein

Abstract. An inverse transport modeling approach based on the concepts of sequential importance resampling and parallel computing is presented to reconstruct altitude-resolved time series of volcanic emissions, which often cannot be obtained directly with current measurement techniques. A new inverse modeling and simulation system, which implements the inversion approach with the Lagrangian transport model Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations (MPTRAC) is developed to provide reliable transport simulations of volcanic sulfur dioxide (SO2). In the inverse modeling system MPTRAC is used to perform two types of simulations, i.e., unit simulations for the reconstruction of volcanic emissions and final forward simulations. Both types of transport simulations are based on wind fields of the ERA-Interim meteorological reanalysis of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts. The reconstruction of altitude-dependent SO2 emission time series is also based on Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS) satellite observations. A case study for the eruption of the Nabro volcano, Eritrea, in June 2011, with complex emission patterns, is considered for method validation. Meteosat Visible and InfraRed Imager (MVIRI) near-real-time imagery data are used to validate the temporal development of the reconstructed emissions. Furthermore, the altitude distributions of the emission time series are compared with top and bottom altitude measurements of aerosol layers obtained by the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) and the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) satellite instruments. The final forward simulations provide detailed spatial and temporal information on the SO2 distributions of the Nabro eruption. By using the critical success index (CSI), the simulation results are evaluated with the AIRS observations. Compared to the results with an assumption of a constant flux of SO2 emissions, our inversion approach leads to an improvement of the mean CSI value from 8.1 to 21.4 % and the maximum CSI value from 32.3 to 52.4 %. The simulation results are also compared with those reported in other studies and good agreement is observed. Our new inverse modeling and simulation system is expected to become a useful tool to also study other volcanic eruption events.

Short summary
A new inverse modeling and simulation system is developed to enable efficient and reliable transport simulations of volcanic SO2 at large scale. The complex time- and altitude-dependent volcanic emission pattern of the Nabro eruption is identified by our inversion algorithm. The simulation results show good agreements with different satellite observations in terms of SO2 horizontal distributions, and help to further reveal the complex transport processes such as the Asian monsoon circulation.