Determining the contribution of volcanic ash and boundary layer aerosol in backscatter lidar returns: A three-component atmosphere approach



[1] A solution of the lidar equation is discussed, that permits combining backscatter and depolarization measurements to quantitatively distinguish two different aerosol types with different depolarization properties. The method has been successfully applied to simultaneous observations of volcanic ash and boundary layer aerosol obtained in Exeter, United Kingdom, on 16 and 18 April 2010, permitting the contribution of the two aerosols to be quantified separately. First a subset of the atmospheric profiles is used where the two aerosol types belong to clearly distinguished layers, for the purpose of characterizing the ash in terms of lidar ratio and depolarization. These quantities are then used in a three-component atmosphere solution scheme of the lidar equation applied to the full data set, in order to compute the optical properties of both aerosol types separately. On 16 April a thin ash layer, 100–400 m deep, is observed (average and maximum estimated ash optical depth: 0.11 and 0.2); it descends from ∼2800 to ∼1400 m altitude over a 6-hour period. On 18 April a double ash layer, ∼400 m deep, is observed just above the morning boundary layer (average and maximum estimated ash optical depth: 0.19 and 0.27). In the afternoon the ash is entrained into the boundary layer, and the latter reaches a depth of ∼1800 m (average and maximum estimated ash optical depth: 0.1 and 0.15). An additional ash layer, with a very small optical depth, was observed on 18 April at an altitude of 3500–4000 m. By converting the lidar optical measurements using estimates of volcanic ash specific extinction, derived from other works, the observations seem to suggest approximate peak ash concentrations of ∼1500 and ∼1000 μg/m3, respectively, on the two observations dates.