Near-source observations of aerosol size distributions in the eruptive plumes from Eyjafjallajökull volcano, March-April 2010

E. Ilyinskaya*, V. I. Tsanev, R. S. Martin, C. Oppenheimer, J. Le Blond, G. M. Sawyer, M. T. Gudmundsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Near-source observations of aerosol size distributions (<15 km from the vent) were made during three eruptive phases of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010: Phase I - basaltic lava fountaining; Phase II - andesitic phreatomagmatic explosions (mass discharge rate of the order of 105 kg s-1); Phase III - andesitic magmatic explosions (mass discharge rate of the order of 103 kg s-1). Two methods were used, photometric measurements of suspended aerosol mass (with size distributions retrieved by inverse modelling); and sampling of ash fallout during Phases II and III (with size distributions measured by laser diffraction). The suspended aerosol in Phase I plume was dominated by particles sized <0.4 μm in diameter. During Phase II, the suspended aerosol mass contained a high number of fine (<1 μm) particles (an internal mixture of soluble aerosol and very fine ash) and coarse (>1 μm) ash particles. The number ratio of fine and coarse particles fluctuated strongly within short intervals of time, indicative of changes in the fragmentation energy. The near-source ash fallout was poorly sorted (interquartile range 16-80 μm); ash grains sized <1 μm contributed up to 7% of total volume. The high water content and electrical charge in the plume are believed to have enhanced the deposition through particle aggregation. In Phase III the eruption became drier and less explosive. The suspended aerosol mass was strongly bimodal with high particle abundances at ∼0.2 and 1-4 μm. The ash fallout was better sorted (interquartile range 60-120 μm; no grains <1 μm), attributed to limited particle aggregation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3210-3216
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
EI is grateful to the Gates Cambridge Trust for research funding and the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland for fieldwork support. VIT and CO acknowledge generous support via NERC grant NE/F001487/1 and the National Centre for Earth Observation “Dynamic Earth and Geohazards” project ( ). Alasdair Mac Arthur, Christopher MacLellan and the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility are thanked for arranging the rapid deployment of the MICROTOPS II.

Other keywords

  • Aerosol
  • Ash
  • Eyjafjallajokull
  • Sun photometry
  • Volcanic plume


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