Compositional variation in tropospheric volcanic gas plumes: evidence from ground-based remote sensing
Published:January 01, 2003
L. A. Horrocks, C. Oppenheimer, M. R. Burton, H. J. Duffell, 2003. "Compositional variation in tropospheric volcanic gas plumes: evidence from ground-based remote sensing", Volcanic Degassing, C. Oppenheimer, D. M. Pyle, J. Barclay
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Remotely sensed measurements of volcanic plumes have been undertaken for 30 years with instruments such as the correlation spectrometer, and more recently, open-path Fourier transform infrared (OP-FTIR) spectrometers. Observations are typically made several kilometres from the source, by which time chemical reactions may have occurred in the plume, overprinting the source composition and flux. Volcanological interpretations of such data therefore demand an understanding of the atmospheric processes initiated as gases leave the volcanic vent. Ground-based remote sensing techniques offer the temporal resolution, repeatability and quantitative analysis necessary for investigation of these processes. Here we report OP-FTIR spectroscopic measurements of gas emissions from Volcano, Nicaragua, between 1998 and 2001, and examine the influence of atmospheric processes on its tropospheric plume. Comparisons of observations made at the summit and down-wind, and in different measurement modes confirm that tropospheric processes and local meteorology have only minor impact on gas composition after the plume has left the crater. This study demonstrates that plume monitoring downwind provides a reliable proxy for at-crater sampling, and that volcanological information content is not obscured by the intervening transport. From February 1998 to May 2000, Masaya's plume composition was strikingly stable and characterized by SO2 /HCI and HCl/HF molar ratios of 1.6 and 5.0, respectively. Departures from this stable background composition are likely to signify changes in the volcanic system or degassing regime, as identified in April-May 2001.
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Humans have long marvelled at (and feared) the odorous and colourful manifestations of volcanic emissions, and, in some cases, have harnessed them for their economic value. The degassing process responsible for these phenomena is now understood to be one of the key factors influencing the timing and nature of volcanic eruptions. Moreover the surface emissions of these volatiles can have profound effects on the atmospheric and terrestrial environment, and climate. Even more fundamental are the relationships between the history of planetary outgassing, differentiation of the Earth’s interior, chemistry of the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and the origin and evolution of life. This book provides a compilation of 23 papers that investigate the behaviour of volatiles in magma, the feedbacks between degassing and magma dynamics, and the composition, flux, and environmental, atmospheric and climatic impacts of volcanic gas emissions.