A comparison of atmospheric dispersion model predictions with observations of SO2 and sulphate aerosol from volcanic eruptions



[1] The UK Met Office's Numerical Atmospheric-dispersion Modeling Environment (NAME) is used both operationally and for research investigations. It has previously been used to model volcanic ash at the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), including that from the eruptions in Iceland of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and Grímsvötn in 2011. In this paper, the ability of NAME to model the release and dispersion of volcanic SO2, the chemical processes leading to the production of sulphate aerosol, and the subsequent dispersion of sulphate aerosol, has been investigated. Sensitivity tests were carried out to investigate the suitability of the NAME chemistry scheme for use in both the troposphere and the stratosphere. The eruptions of Sarychev in 2009, Kasatochi in 2008 and Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were simulated and results for SO2 column density and sulphate aerosol optical depth (AOD) were compared with satellite retrievals. NAME results compare favorably with available observations in terms of both geographical distribution and magnitude for all three cases. The NAME modeled values of SO2 show a correlation of 0.8 with the corresponding observations for Sarychev. Ninety percent of modeled values of northern hemisphere averaged sulphate AOD are within a factor of 2 of those observed for Kasatochi and 71% are within a factor of 2 of those observed for Sarychev. Although significant uncertainties are present in both the model and observations, this work demonstrates that NAME's current chemistry scheme shows promise as a tool for modeling SO2 and sulphate from volcanoes.