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Open-File Report 02-395

A New Method for GPS-based Wind Speed Determinations during Airborne Volcanic Plume Measurements

By Michael P. Doukas

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (304 kB)Introduction

Begun nearly thirty years ago, the measurement of gases in volcanic plumes is today an accepted technique in volcano research. Volcanic plume measurements, whether baseline gas emissions from quiescent volcanoes or more substantial emissions from volcanoes undergoing unrest, provide important information on the amount of gaseous output of a volcano to the atmosphere. Measuring changes in gas emission rates also allows insight into eruptive behavior. Some of the earliest volcanic plume measurements of sulfur dioxide were made using a correlation spectrometer (COSPEC). The COSPEC, developed originally for industrial pollution studies, is an upward-looking optical spectrometer tuned to the ultraviolet absorption wavelength of sulfur dioxide (Millán and Hoff, 1978). In airborne mode, the COSPEC is mounted in a fixed-wing aircraft and flown back and forth just underneath a volcanic plume, perpendicular to the direction of plume travel (Casadevall and others, 1981; Stoiber and others, 1983). Similarly, for plumes close to the ground, the COSPEC can be mounted in an automobile and driven underneath a plume if a suitable road system is available (Elias and others, 1998). The COSPEC can also be mounted on a tripod and used to scan a volcanic plume from a fixed location on the ground, although the effectiveness of this configuration declines with distance from the plume (Kyle and others, 1990). In the 1990’s, newer airborne techniques involving direct sampling of volcanic plumes with infrared spectrometers and electrochemical sensors were developed in order to measure additional gases such as CO2 and H2S (Gerlach and others, 1997; Gerlach and others, 1999; McGee and others, 2001). These methods involve constructing a plume cross-section from several measurement traverses through the plume in a vertical plane. Newer instruments such as open-path Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers are now being used to measure the gases in volcanic plumes mostly from fixed locations on the ground. Most FTIR studies to date measure only gas compositions or ratios of gas species (Love and others, 1998; Francis and others, 1998; Horrocks and others, 1999). What all of these methods have in common, however, is the necessity to know plume velocities if accurate gas emission rates are to be calculated. Even open-path FTIR studies done in tandem with a COSPEC require knowledge of plume velocity in order to compute emission rates.

First posted October 31, 2002

For additional information, contact:
David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory
1300 SE Cardinal Court, Building 10, Suite 100
Vancouver, Washington 98683-9589

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Suggested citation:

Doukas, Michael P., 2002, A New Method for GPS-based Wind Speed Determinations during Airborne Volcanic Plume Measurements: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-395, 13 pp.,

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