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Predicting and validating the motion of an ash cloud during the 2006 eruption of Mount Augustine volcano

January 7, 2016

On 11 January 2006, Mount Augustine volcano in southern Alaska began erupting after 20- year repose. The Anchorage Forecast Office of the National Weather Service (NWS) issued an advisory on 28 January for Kodiak City. On 31 January, Alaska Airlines cancelled all flights to and from Anchorage after multiple advisories from the NWS for Anchorage and the surrounding region. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) had reported the onset of the continuous eruption. AVO monitors the approximately 100 active volcanoes in the Northern Pacific. Ash clouds from these volcanoes can cause serious damage to an aircraft and pose a serious threat to the local communities, and to transcontinental air traffic throughout the Arctic and sub-Arctic region. Within AVO, a dispersion model has been developed to track the dispersion of volcanic ash clouds. The model, Puff, was used operational by AVO during the Augustine eruptive period. Here, we examine the dispersion of a volcanic ash (or aerosol) cloud from Mount Augustine across Alaska from 29 January through the 2 February 2006. We present the synoptic meteorology, the Puff predictions, and measurements from aerosol samplers, laser radar (or lidar) systems, and satellites. Aerosol samplers revealed the presence of volcanic aerosols at the surface at sites where Puff predicted the ash clouds movement. Remote sensing satellite data showed the development of the ash cloud in close proximity to the volcano consistent with the Puff predictions. Two lidars showed the presence of volcanic aerosol with consistent characteristics aloft over Alaska and were capable of detecting the aerosol, even in the presence of scattered clouds and where the ash cloud is too thin/disperse to be detected by remote sensing satellite data. The lidar measurements revealed the different trajectories of ash consistent with the Puff predictions. Dispersion models provide a forecast of volcanic ash cloud movement that might be undetectable by any other means but are still a significant hazard. Validation is the key to assessing the accuracy of any predictions. The study highlights the use of multiple and complementary observations used in detecting the trajectory ash cloud, both at the surface and aloft in the atmosphere.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2007
Title Predicting and validating the motion of an ash cloud during the 2006 eruption of Mount Augustine volcano
Authors Richard L. Collins, Javier Fochesatto, Kenneth Sassen, Peter W. Webley, David E. Atkinson, Kenneson G. Dean, Catherine F. Cahill, Kohei Mizutani
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
Index ID 70170359
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program