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Michigan Technological University: "Improved characterization and prediction of volcanic cloud movement"

Final Report

As part of a previous Partners Project, Michigan Technological University (MTU) and the NWS did a detailed study using C-band radar to look a eruption columns and drifting ash clouds from the Crater Peak/Spurr eruption. In addition, the eruptions were detected and tracked by AVHRR for several days. As a result of this work, the NWS and MTU have implemented a real-time volcanic cloud detection system and have made significant progress on understanding the environmental factors that control the sensitivity of the analysis algorithms and to develop a method to retrieve particle sizes and mass concentrations from AVHRR data.

The purpose of the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) project was to take advantage of new technologies to advance the previous work and to include forecasters from Elemendorf AFB in that effort. The overall objective was to reinforce the use of remote sensing methods involving ground-based radar systems, satellite microwave sensors, and infrared weather satellite sensors for mitigation of aircraft hazards from drifting volcanic clouds. These efforts were hampered by lack of old DMSP data on eruptions and an incompatibility of AFWA software systems with university methods. Since DMSP data for Alaskan eruptions were not available, an analysis of the utility of thermal infrared data for a New Zealand 1996 eruption was used, demonstrating the utility of geostationary weather satellite data for volcanic cloud hazard mitigation ( A study was also completed of the June 1992 Spurr eruption clouds, using trajectory information to carefully constrain the three dimensional cloud motions. These results are also found on the university's web pages.