Sulfur Dioxide plume from the Chilean volcano

Here’s the eruption seen from NASA MODIS:

Eruption of Puyehue-Cord�n Caulle volcano, Chile This visible image was taken on June 8 at 18:30 UTC (2:30 p.m. EDT) by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. The plume from the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano in Chile has expanded to the south and is now covering a much wider angle than earlier this week. The image shows the plume of ash now blowing to the east over Argentina in what almost appears to be a 90 degree triangle. (Credit: NASA’s MODIS Rapid Response Team)

› Larger image

And here is the SO2 imagery from the European Space Agency (ESA):

Volcanic gas plume
This image shows the huge plume of sulphur dioxide that spewed from Chile’s Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex, which lies in the Andes about 600 km south of Santiago

After lying dormant for more than 50 years, a series of rumbling earthquakes signaled the beginnings of this major volcanic eruption. On 4 June, a fissure opened, sending a towering plume of volcanic ash and gas over 10 km high.

Several thousand people were evacuated as a thick layer of ash and pumice fell and blanketed a wide area. Airports in Chile and Argentina were closed as a result.

The image was generated on 6 June using data from the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer on Eumetsat’s MetOp-A satellite. As the eruption continued, the image shows how strong winds initially swept the broad plume of sulphur dioxide northwards and then eastwards across Argentina and out over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Strong westerly winds are common in this region because it lies within the belt of the ‘Roaring Forties’. Since there is little land south of 40º, higher wind speeds can develop than at the same latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.

Interestingly, over the South Atlantic, the plume take a sharp turn to the north as a pressure system causes the wind to change direction.

The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex is a chain of volcanoes that includes the Puyehue volcano, the Cordilera Nevada caldera and the Cordón Caulle rift zone. This event appears to have stemmed from the rift zone and is the most serious since the eruption of 1960, also from the same vent.

Chile has more than 3000 volcanoes, of which around 80 are currently active.

The image represents sulphur dioxide concentrations within the full vertical column of atmosphere. It was generated using data from the interferometer, which was developed by the French space agency CNES for MetOp-A.

The MetOp programme was jointly established by ESA and Eumetsat and forms the space segment of Eumetsat’s Polar System.

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David Schnare
June 10, 2011 12:08 pm

Is the vertical column high enough to contribute a cooling effect, or is this staying at a lower level?

June 10, 2011 12:20 pm

I am in Brazil and the plume has already reached here – I think it went north in the past couple of days. Airports all over the Brazilian southern states are closed.

June 10, 2011 12:31 pm

I don’t know how long it kept pushing above the tropopause, but at least in the initial stages it was easily into the stratosphere. As noted by Mr. Watts, that image is the full column, which include that part that is in the troposphere.

June 10, 2011 12:48 pm
Mike Hebb
June 10, 2011 1:20 pm

What’s that wiggly little line down the lh side in the first picture? Is that a boundary or a continental divide (or both)?

June 10, 2011 1:25 pm

How long before this event is responsible for the current ‘lower than expected’ warming?! LOL

June 10, 2011 1:30 pm

Volcanic forcing is an interesting subject. I found this paper useful and informative:

June 10, 2011 1:32 pm

Country boundary. Check the SO2 image and you can see it there also.

Sandy Rham
June 10, 2011 1:52 pm

How does the pollution from this compare with the BP oil spill??

Allan M
June 10, 2011 2:21 pm

Sue the damn thing for exceeding the average SO2 output!

June 10, 2011 3:27 pm

What is the estimated mass of the sulfur dioxide release?
How much greater is it than the new EPA “….one-hour SO2 health standard at 75 parts per billion. Previously, the rules were based on a 24-hour measuring period, but the EPA now believes that it makes more sense to measure the short-term impact of SO2, …..” ?

June 10, 2011 3:50 pm

Ric, Pretty awesome photos in my opinion. Thanks for the link.

Robert of Ottawa
June 10, 2011 4:11 pm

How many years of energy penance must I indulge in to make up for this CO2 addition to the atmosphere?
Yes, a rhetorical point, but I would like to know “how many Gigatons” of CO2 this, and any, volcanic eruption issued into the atmosphere. It would, I suggest, make our efforts appear puny.

June 10, 2011 4:36 pm

Nothing new. It has been like this the last four billion years .

Luther Wu
June 10, 2011 4:48 pm

The Horror.
All of that ocean “acidification” that I’ve been responsible for in the collective breath of Western humanity and this makes all of my reef- destroying indulgences seem as weak as the wind from a gnat’s wing.

mike sphar
June 10, 2011 4:58 pm

“Chile has 3000 volcanos of which 80 are active…” This must be a sizable fraction of the “Ring of Fire” I wonder if this ratio holds for the rest of the Ring ? The volume of stuff emitted just from the active portion must be significant. I wonder how the models average all this over time ? I think some members of the AGU have proposed trying to replicate this sort of activity by either enlisting the combined air force of the US to act as atmospheric bombers or require the fleet of high flying commercial jets to be retrofitted with equipment to eject stuff into the atmosphere. Either solution seems to be ludicrous and begs the question as to what is the problem when we have this engine in place already ?

June 10, 2011 7:17 pm

If Pinatubo was a 1.0 on the “contributing to global cooling” scale, what’s this one rate at so far?
Has anyone come up with actual relevant metrics to make that kind of scale determination relevant and easy to understand/communicate?

Philip Bradley
June 10, 2011 8:46 pm

Pinatuba – total mass of SO2 of about 17 million tons being injected
Laki – estimated 50 million tonnes SO2
Laki caused thousands of deaths from SO2 inhalation as well as contributing to the LIA
Can’t find an estimate for SO2 emissions from this eruption, but it appears a lot and is a crucial question if we are looking at several years of climate cooling.
I’m rather afraid we are about to discover global cooling is a whole lot worse problem than global warming.

June 10, 2011 11:30 pm

How much sulphuric acid will wind up in the South Atlantic? Will the “ocean acidification” crowd even bother to mention this…

Ian Cooper
June 11, 2011 12:54 am

Television New Zealands wvwning news tonight (June 11th at 6.30 U.T.C.) showed a viewers photo of the ash/sulphur cloud over the world’s most southern city, Invercargill, at the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand. BTW Invercargill is also our official Aurora Capital as well.
Being five days since the eruption I am not surprised that the cloud is with us now. I live 7 degrees north of Invercargill and we haven’t seen clear sky for the last 60 hours, so for all I know it could be over us as well. It is due to clear in a bit over 12 hours so I will keep you posted. We have a Total Lunar Eclipse for here on the morning of the 16th local time. The moon will enter totality 20 minutes before it sets. It will need to be clear of clouds (goes without saying) but haze free too if we are going to see this one.
This reminds me of 1991 in Mexico when we viewed “The Big One Over Baja,” a long duration Total Solar Eclipse less than a month after Pinatubo erupted. That eclipse was on a Thursday local time as well(1991.07.11). When we arrived at Todos Santos on the Monday the sunset was most unusual for a tropical location in that it lasted for nearly two hours after sunset. From a dark location we could only see stars to magnitude three. Not a scenario that one would wish for just prior to an amazing visual event like that eclipse. Obviously a large amount of volcanic material had spread from the Phillipines across the Pacific to Baja California. As luck would have it on the daty the there was very little sign of the aerosols aloft and the eclipse was truly spectacular. Fingers crossed for this Thursday.
I mentioned the rain we are experiencing. This has been coming from the north for the past few months. The normal southerly winds that bring snow up from Antarctica have been doing their darndest over the south-eastern part of Australia. Looks like our ski industry will do a starve, atleast for awhile, while the Australian version will be rubbing their hands, both because of the cold and the unexpected windfall from the south!
Didn’t that ultra-climate alarmist from Aussie, David Karoly warn the Aussie snow industry that they would be virtually made redundant due to global warming (or words to that affect)? I can just see the folks at the ski fields in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales saying, “If this is global warming then we want more!”

June 11, 2011 12:55 am

We are already seeing the effects of the volcanic emmissions here in New Zealand. Only visual at this stage with beautiful coloured sunsets here in the lower South Island. It was even commented on during the weather section on TV1’s news at 6.

Ian Cooper
June 11, 2011 1:30 am

Further to my comments above here is a link to New Zealand Weather Watch site where there is a photo showing the typical volcanic sunset colours as seen from Invercargill,
Jantar, the colours maybe pretty but for astronomers they are most unwelcome. Those aerosols spoil the view no end. We had Pinatubo sunsets here for four years (’91-’95). Temperatures also dropped worldwide. This southern volcanoe will not cause that effect though, it is the big equatorial ones that have the ability to spread material in the troposphere both side of the equator that leads to global cooling.
When I come to think about it I noticed a weak “Japenesse War Flag Sunset,” from Palmerston North on Wednesday Night (2011.06.08 06.00 U.T.C.). These sort of sunsets were almost common during the Pinatubo period. Personally I have seen enough of them, thanks verymuch!

richard verney
June 11, 2011 1:39 am

interesting paper Vukcevic, although I have only briefly scanned it (I will need to review it in more detail later). They conclude that there was more volcanic activity in the early part of the 20th century and despite this, based of course on models, the warming observed during the first part of the 20th century was due to natural causes specifically due to solar forcing. I wonder what data they used for early 20th century TSI given that Leif Svalgaard considers that TSI during the 20th century was almost flat at about 1366 w per m squared +/- 1/2 w per m squared with no rise between 1900s to 1940s.
I liked the pictures linked by Ric. Well worth a look.

Philip Bradley
June 11, 2011 2:01 am

Here in Perth, Western Australia I can see faint east-west bands across the sky that don’t appear to be clouds. I assume dust from the volcano.

June 11, 2011 4:19 am

Those photos
you posted a link to are amazing!

William McQuiddy
June 11, 2011 5:24 am

Why all the lightening during the ejection? It seems to be a common thing. Is there any indication how deep the magma source is? Just curious. The photos are magnificent.

Laurie Bowen
June 11, 2011 7:30 am

@Ric Werme
You could convince me that . . . this was photo-shopped . . . .amazing photos!

June 11, 2011 1:17 pm

This has now been rated a VEI 6 eruption (so far), the same as Pinatubo. I expect there will be at least some climactic impact given the SO2 imagery.
To answer Mr. McQuiddy, lightning frequently accompanies volcanic eruptions.

June 11, 2011 3:50 pm

how quickly does this have an effect? I have mixed feelings…on the one hand, it will be fun to watch the temperatures respond…on the other, they now have a trump card they can slam down, which is really annoying. still….this will only add to the continuing decay of public concern, so the net value is a good thing I am fairly certain.

June 11, 2011 10:58 pm

Hey Terry, where did you get informed that this volcano eruption has been rated a VEI-6?
Here is video of Grimsvötn and more satellite images.
NASA – GOES-13 Satellite Video Shows Grimsvotn Volcanic Ash Shooting into the Atmosphere
NASA – Three Satellites See Eruption of Puyehue-Cordón Volcano from Space
Also, interesting images of tornado tracks…

June 11, 2011 11:19 pm

It is showing to be slightly more than the 2008 VEI-4 eruption of Chaiten. But I haven’t been able to find anything stating a VEI-6? At least not from non-amateurs. Huge eruption though, so I expect sharper temperature gradients and lots of wind and precipitation to result from this over the next year or so.

Ian Cooper
June 12, 2011 2:14 am

Here is a link to a map modelling the SO2/ash flow since the eruption.
thanks for the heads-up from my mate Si.

June 12, 2011 10:20 am

SERGANEOMIN’s red alert level 6 being maintained for this volcano was being misinterpreted as a VEI-6 by some news reports it appears. A result of language translations.

little polyp
June 12, 2011 5:58 pm

Anyone have any idea about the amounts of CO2 being emitted here ? Can it be estimated from SO2 emissions ? bulk chemistry ?

June 12, 2011 11:57 pm

William McQuiddy says:
Why all the lightening during the ejection? It seems to be a common thing.
The ash appears to easily pick up a static charge through friction. IIRC all sorts of electrical effects when BA flight 9 flew through such a cloud.

Laurie Bowen
June 13, 2011 10:27 am

Mark says: “The ash appears to easily pick up a static charge through friction”
Mark, Principle is reminiscent of John Galts Motor in “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand! To the rest, sorry for being a ‘troll’!

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