Dispersion of the volcanic sulfate cloud from a Mount Pinatubo–like eruption



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Correction to “Dispersion of the volcanic sulfate cloud from a Mount Pinatubo-like eruption” Volume 118, Issue 14, 7849, Article first published online: 24 July 2013


[1] We use the GEOS-5 general circulation model to simulate the transport of the volcanic cloud from an eruption similar to the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. The simulated aerosol optical thickness and transport of the volcanic cloud are in good agreement with observations of the actual Pinatubo eruption from the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II) and the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and with vertical profiles of sulfur dioxide observed by the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS). We tested the importance of initial conditions corresponding to the specific meteorological situation at the time of the eruption by comparing results when GEOS-5 is initialized using Modern Era Retrospective Analyses for Research and Applications (MERRA) reanalysis fields with results when it is initialized from an existing model run. We found no significant difference in the transport of the cloud. We show how the inclusion of the interaction between volcanic sulfate aerosol and radiation is essential for a reliable simulation of the transport of the volcanic cloud. The absorption of longwave radiation by the volcanic sulfate largely induces the rising of the volcanic cloud up to the middle stratosphere and the divergent motion from the latitude of the eruption to the tropics. Our simulations indicate that the cloud is transported to the Northern Hemisphere through a lower stratospheric pathway and to middle and high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere through a middle stratospheric pathway, centered at about 30 hPa. The direction of the middle stratospheric pathway depends on the season of the eruption.