The advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) sensor on polar orbiting NOAA satellites can discriminate between volcanic clouds and meteorological clouds using two-band data in the thermal infrared. This paper is aimed at developing a retrieval of the particle sizes, optical depth, and total masses of particles from AVHRR two-band data of volcanic clouds. Radiative transfer calculations are used with a semi-transparent cloud model that is based on assumptions of spherical particle shape, a homogeneous underlying surface, and a simple thin cloud parallel to the surface. The model is applied to observed AVHRR data from a 13-hour old drifting cloud from the August 19, 1992, eruption of Crater Peak/Spurr Volcano, Alaska. The AVHRR data fit in the range of results calculated by the model, which supports its credibility. According to the model results, the average of effective particle radius in the test frame of this cloud is in the range of 2 to 2.5 μm, the optical depth at 12 μm is about 0.60–0.65. The total estimated mass of ash in the air amounts to 0.24–0.31×106 tons, which is about 0.7–0.9% of the mass measured in the ashfall blanket. Sensitivity tests show that the mass estimate is more sensitive to the assumed ash size distribution than it is to the ash composition.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/william-rose/99/