Mount Etna erupts Spectroradiometer and sun photometer in use on Mt. Etna Sun behind Mt Etna plume

Photographs courtesy of Dr. V. Tsanev

The Field Spectroscopy Facility supplied a GER 1500 spectoradiometer and Microtops II sun photometers used by Dr. Tsanev of the University of Cambridge for volcanic plume measurement on Mt. Etna during an eruption

Dr. Vitchko Tsanev and a group of volcanologists, atmospheric chemists and spectroscopists from the University of Cambridge teamed up in July 2006 to carry out field measurements of the composition and evolution of volcanic plumes (PI Dr. Clive Oppenheimer). The target volcanoes were all in Italy: Vulcano and Stromboli islands, and Mt. Etna on Sicily. These three volcanoes produce distinct brews of chemical effluent, at very different rates, and released from only a few hundred metres above sea level (in the case of Vulcano) to over 3000 metres into the 'free troposphere' (in the case of Mt. Etna). This variation in activity and atmospheric environment makes it possible to study environmental as well as volcanological controls on the composition and evolution of volcanic plumes. One highlight of the fieldwork was to arrive on Mt. Etna shortly after an eruption had begun. This provided an unexpected opportunity to measure plumes containing ash as well as gases and sulphate particles. The team used a range of instrumentation, including two Microtops Sun photometers and a GER 1500 spectroradiometer on loan from the NERC Field Spectroscopy Facility. These devices permit characterization of the aerosol content of airborne plumes and, in the case of the GER spectroradiometer, the possibility of measuring water abundances (water is the primary volcanic gas). Other techniques were used to measure gas composition and flux including UV spectroscopy and open-path Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and prototype sensors for measurement of ozone, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. In addition, the team worked alongside colleagues from the University of Oxford, and the Italian Institute of Volcanology and Geophysics. The campaign has produced a large dataset that is now being worked through.