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Interpretation of observed microwave signatures from ground dual polarization radar and space multi frequency radiometer for the 2011 Grímsvötn volcanic eruption

Author(s): M. Montopoli | G. Vulpiani | D. Cimini | E. Picciotti | F. S. Marzano

Journal: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions
ISSN 1867-8610

Volume: 6;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 6215;
Date: 2013;
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The important role played by ground-based microwave weather radars for the monitoring of volcanic ash clouds has been recently demonstrated. The potential of microwaves from satellite passive and ground-based active sensors to estimate near-source volcanic ash cloud parameters has been also proposed, though with little investigation of their synergy and the role of the radar polarimetry. The goal of this work is to show the potentiality and drawbacks of the X-band Dual Polarization radar measurements (DPX) through the data acquired during the latest Grímsvötn volcanic eruptions that took place on May 2011 in Iceland. The analysis is enriched by the comparison between DPX data and the observations from the satellite Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS) and a C-band Single Polarization (SPC) radar. SPC, DPX, and SSMIS instruments cover a large range of the microwaves spectrum, operating respectively at 5.4, 3.2, and 0.16–1.6 cm wavelengths. The multi-source comparison is made in terms of Total Columnar Concentration (TCC). The latter is estimated from radar observables using the "Volcanic Ash Radar Retrieval for dual-Polarization X band systems" (VARR-PX) algorithm and from SSMIS brightness temperature (BT) using a linear BT–TCC relationship. The BT–TCC relationship has been compared with the analogous relation derived from SSMIS and SPC radar data for the same case study. Differences between these two linear regression curves are mainly attributed to an incomplete observation of the vertical extension of the ash cloud, a coarser spatial resolution and a more pronounced non-uniform beam filling effect of SPC measurements (260 km far from the volcanic vent) with respect to the DPX (70 km from the volcanic vent). Results show that high-spatial-resolution DPX radar data identify an evident volcanic plume signature, even though the interpretation of the polarimetric variables and the related retrievals is not always straightforward, likely due to the possible formation of ash and ice particle aggregates and the radar signal depolarization induced by turbulence effects. The correlation of the estimated TCCs derived from DPX and SSMIS BTs reaches −0.73.
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