Long-range transport of volcanic aerosol from the 2010 Merapi tropical eruption to Antarctica

Wu, X., Griessbach, S., & Hoffmann, L.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics , 2018


Volcanic sulfate aerosol is an important source of sulfur for Antarctica, where other local sources of sulfur are rare. Midlatitude and high-latitude volcanic eruptions can directly influence the aerosol budget of the polar stratosphere. However, tropical eruptions can also enhance polar aerosol load following long-range transport. In the present work, we analyze the volcanic plume of a tropical eruption, Mount Merapi in 2010, and investigate the transport pathway of the volcanic aerosol from the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) to the lower stratosphere over Antarctica. We use the Lagrangian particle dispersion model Massive-Parallel Trajectory Calculations (MPTRAC) and Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) SO2 measurements to reconstruct the altitude-resolved SO2 injection time series during the explosive eruption period and simulate the transport of the volcanic plume using the MPTRAC model. AIRS SO2 and aerosol measurements, the aerosol cloud index values provided by Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS), are used to verify and complement the simulations. The Lagrangian transport simulation of the volcanic plume is compared with MIPAS aerosol measurements and shows good agreement. Both the simulations and the observations presented in this study suggest that volcanic plumes from the Merapi eruption were transported to the south of 60°S 1 month after the eruption and even further to Antarctica in the following months. This relatively fast meridional transport of volcanic aerosol was mainly driven by quasi-horizontal mixing from the TTL to the extratropical lower stratosphere, and most of the quasi-horizontal mixing occurred between the isentropic surfaces of 360 to 430K. When the plume went to Southern Hemisphere high latitudes, the polar vortex was displaced from the South Pole, so that the volcanic plume was carried to the South Pole without penetrating the polar vortex. Although only 4% of the sulfur injected by the Merapi eruption was transported into the lower stratosphere south of 60°S, the Merapi eruption contributed up to 8800t of sulfur to the Antarctic lower stratosphere. This indicates that the long-range transport under favorable meteorological conditions enables a moderate tropical volcanic eruption to be an important remote source of sulfur for the Antarctic stratosphere.


Wu, X., Griessbach, S., & Hoffmann, L. (2018), Long-range transport of volcanic aerosol from the 2010 Merapi tropical eruption to Antarctica, Atmospheric Chemistry And Physics, 18(21), 15859-15877. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-15859-2018