Etna's volcanic plume reached the south of Russia

Etna's volcanic plume reached the south of Russia
Etna's volcanic plume reached the south of Russia

On the afternoon of July 21, the TROPOMI apparatus on board the Sentinel-5 satellite detected a cloud of sulfur dioxide over the Kuban-Priazovskaya lowland and the Stavropol Upland. The SO2 content at an altitude of two kilometers was 20.9 Dobson units, and the mass of sulfur dioxide in the plume exceeded 16 kilotons. The alleged source is the eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily.

During eruptions, volcanoes pour out degassed magma, lava onto the surface, and emit pyroclastic material and gases into the air. Large eruptions can release huge volumes of gas in a short time. For example, the Pinatubo volcano in 1991 released more than 250 megatons of water vapor into the upper atmosphere in one day. In addition to water, volcanoes also emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Depending on the concentration, the listed gases can be hazardous to human health and affect the ecology and climate of the planet.

Sulfur dioxide closes the top three of the most common volcanic gases. It is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that irritates the skin and mucous membranes. In air, SO2 interacts with water and precipitates as acid rain or is converted to sulfate aerosols, which reflect sunlight and cool the Earth's climate. Sulfur dioxide lives in the troposphere for a couple of days, but if the eruptive column pushes it into the stratosphere, the presence of sulfate aerosols can increase up to several months. Today, remote and stationary methods are used to monitor SO2 emissions.

Etna stratovolcano lies on the Italian island of Sicily. Its activity is associated with the border position at the junction of the Eurasian and African lithospheric plates. It is one of the oldest active volcanoes in the world: the first eruption occurred half a million years ago. Since the beginning of the Holocene, Etna has had an almost continuous regime of eruptions with short periods of rest. In 2021, the volcano entered another active phase and has already erupted more than ten times. On the morning of July 20, at 8 am, lava began to gush from the Etna crater. At 9 o'clock, the eruption column reached a height of about 10 kilometers, and the volcanic plume began to drift in a southeast direction. The volcano's activity ceased at 10:30.

On Wednesday July 21, the TROPOMI multispectral sensor aboard the Sentinel-5 satellite recorded an eruption plume 2,000 kilometers northeast of Etna. A cloud of sulfur dioxide stretched for several hundred kilometers over the Stavropol Upland, the Kuban-Priazovskaya Lowland and the Black Sea. The SO2 content at an altitude of two kilometers was 20.9 Dobson units. The mass of sulfur dioxide in the plume over a 300 km section exceeded 16 kilotons.

TROPOMI has already been successfully used to monitor volcanic eruptions. Earlier, we talked about the smallest sulfur dioxide plume that the sensor on board the Sentinel-5 managed to detect.

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