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Title

Sensitivity of dispersion model forecasts of volcanic ash clouds to the physical characteristics of the particles

Authors
Beckett, F. M.
Witham, C.S.
Hort, M.C.
Stevenson, J.A.
Millington, S.C.
Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. 2015, vol. 120, no. 22, p. 11,636-11,652
Abstract This study examines the sensitivity of atmospheric dispersion model forecasts of volcanic ash clouds to the physical characteristics assigned to the particles. We show that the particle size distribution (PSD) used to initialise a dispersion model has a significant impact on the forecast of the mass loading of the ash particles in the atmosphere. This is because the modeled fall velocity of the particles is sensitive to the particle diameter. Forecasts of the long-range transport of the ash cloud consider particles with diameters between 0.1 μm and 100 μm. The fall velocity of particles with diameter 100 μm is over 5 orders of magnitude greater than a particle with diameter 0.1 μm, and 30 μm particles fall 88% slower and travel up to 5× further than a 100 μm particle. Identifying the PSD of the ash cloud at the source, which is required to initialise a model, is difficult. Further, aggregation processes are currently not explicitly modeled in operational dispersion models due to the high computational costs associated with aggregation schemes. We show that using a modified total grain size distribution (TGSD) that effectively accounts for aggregation processes improves the modeled PSD of the ash cloud and deposits from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. Knowledge of the TGSD of an eruption is therefore critical for reducing uncertainty in quantitative forecasts of ash cloud dispersion. The density and shape assigned to the model particles have a lesser but still significant impact on the calculated fall velocity. Accounting for the density distribution and sphericity of ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, modeled particles can travel up to 84% further than particles with default particle characteristics that assume the particles are spherical and have a fixed density.
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Research group Physical Volcanology and Geological Risk
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BECKETT, F. M. et al. Sensitivity of dispersion model forecasts of volcanic ash clouds to the physical characteristics of the particles. In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 2015, vol. 120, n° 22, p. 11,636-11,652. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:77956

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Deposited on : 2015-12-01

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