Sighting of El Chichón Sulfur Dioxide Clouds with the Nimbus 7 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  24 Jun 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4604, pp. 1377-1379
DOI: 10.1126/science.220.4604.1377


The eruptions of El Chichón volcano on 28 March and 3 and 4 April 1982 were observed by the Nimbus 7 total ozone mapping spectrometer due to strong absorption by volcanic gases at the shortest wavelengths of the spectrometer (312.5 and 317.5 nanometers). These ultraviolet pictures permit a measurement of the volume, dispersion, and drift of volcanic gas clouds. The tropospheric clouds were rapidly dispersed in westerly winds while persistent stratospheric clouds drifted in easterly winds at speeds up to 13 meters per second. The spectral reflectance is consistent with sulfur dioxide absorption and rules out carbon disulfide as a major constituent. A preliminary estimate of the mass of sulfur dioxide deposited in the stratosphere by the large eruptions on 3 and 4 April is 3.3 x 106 tons. Prior estimates of volcanic cloud volume were based on extrapolation of locally measured sulfur dioxide concentrations.