50 volcanoes erupting around the globe – every day

50 volcanoes erupting around the globe – every day
Weather & Environment

Ongoing volcanic activity around the world is not only about dramatic news on disruptions to daily life. Volcanoes also help provide us with fertile soils and comfortable atmospheric conditions for daily living. 

The Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institution keeps track of continuing, active volcanic eruptions, and on any given day there are about 50 volcanoes in various stages of eruption. When they mark an eruption as "continuing", it indicates at least intermittent eruptive events without a break of 3 months or more. About 20 of these are regarded as actively erupting on any particular day.

Measuring various phenomena and parameters around erupting volcanoes helps us learn more about cause & effect, as well as help communities prepare for the effects of eruptions. Vaisala measurement technologies are playing an important role in measuring effects of volcanic activity.

Mitigating hazards of volcanic ash

Depolarization measurements from Vaisala Lidar Ceilometer CL61 provides data enabling the tracking of volcanic ash plumes, which can have significant effects on communities and their economies. Read our recent blog about how CL61 delivers high-quality profiling data that provides the provides the insights needed to track particles such as smoke, volcanic ash, or sand plumes, but also improve numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, as well as understand icing conditions.

The CL61 Lidar Ceilometer is currently measuring airborne volcanic ash at the ongoing eruption of Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in Spain. Stay tuned as we are getting ready to share interesting data from it.

Monitoring dust and volcanic ash with lidars

In addition to ceilometers, ground-based lidars like Vaisala WindCube Scan are used for dust and volcanic ash observation. A recent study demonstrates how this is particularly interesting in Iceland where high-altitude dust events occur frequently during strong wind conditions and volcanic eruptions. Monitoring of volcanic and sedimentary aerosols can provide important information to decision makers, including an increase in aviation safety.

Researching volcanic plume electrification and dispersion

Vaisala radiosondes have been used in research campaigns together with additional sensors, such as an electric charge sensor, for providing vertical atmospheric profiles through volcanic plumes. For example, in a measurement campaign at Stromboli, Italy various independent measurement techniques were used to demonstrate, for the first time, that even weak volcanic plumes above an erupting volcano can be substantially charged even if ash is not detected. The implications include effects on the life of ash particles in volcanic plumes and the overall chemical reactivity of the plume, which in turn are important for understanding the environmental impact of volcanic emission. These studies contribute to more accurate modeling of volcanic plume dispersion.

Radiosondes are also used for example at Cumbre Vieja in La Palma for providing data of the meteorological variables such as temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and wind direction. With these parameters, it will be possible to see the vertical structure of the atmosphere in the emergency zone, which helps guarantee safety of the nearby communities.

Understanding volcanic lightning

During a traditional thunderstorm, air moving up and down in the cloud causes raindrops, ice crystals, and graupel to collide, creating electrical charge in the cloud and when that charge build up is big enough, lightning occurs to balance the charge. Volcanic lightning occurs during an explosive eruption, when ash and rock collide and produce static discharges.

Long range lightning detection networks like GLD360 help identify volcanic eruptions with lightning. The lightning data collected from volcanic eruptions help volcanologists and atmospheric scientists better understand eruptions and are a valuable resource for volcano monitoring. Read our blogs about volcanic lightning at La Soufrière, on Saint Vincent in the Lesser Antilles, Anak Krakatau, Indonesia and Fuego, Guatemala.

Detecting even small amounts of ash by weather radars

The nature and operating characteristics of dual-polarization radars make them especially capable of detecting ash in a variety of conditions, from clear to cloudy skies, calm to windy conditions, dry to wet, and during the day or at night. Read more about radar observations of wildfire smoke and ash, which demonstrates potential for using weather radar data also in detection of volcanic ash.

Every-day air quality monitoring – even in exceptional circumstances

Air quality is an essential factor in creating smarter, healthier communities and is connected to the weather and other atmospheric conditions. Vaisala’s air quality measurement technologies measure critical pollutant gases and particulate matter. When complemented with real-time data about every-day weather, as well as extreme conditions like that of a wildfire or volcanic eruption, urban communities around the world are better prepared to take action to protect their people.