Excitation of atmospheric oscillations by volcanic eruptions


  • Hiroo Kanamori,

  • Jim Mori,

  • David G. Harkrider


We investigated the mechanism of atmospheric oscillations with periods of about 300 s which were observed for the 1991 Pinatubo and the 1982 El Chichón eruptions. Two distinct spectral peaks, at T = 270 and 230 s for the Pinatubo eruption and at T = 195 and 266 s for the El Chichón eruptions, have been reported. We found similar oscillations for the 1980 Mount St. Helens and the 1883 Krakatoa eruptions. To explain these observations, we investigated excitation problems for two types of idealized sources, “mass injection” and “energy injection” sources, placed in an isothermal atmosphere. In general, two modes of oscillations, “acoustic” and “gravity” modes, can be excited. For realistic atmospheric parameters, the acoustic and gravity modes have a period of 275 and 304 s, respectively. For a realistic time history of eruption, atmospheric oscillations with an amplitude of 50 to 100 Pa (0.5 to 1 mbar) can be excited by an energy injection source with a total energy of 1017 J. This result is consistent with the observations and provides a physical basis for interpretation of atmospheric oscillations excited by volcanic eruptions.