Volcano from space

nasa-iss020e009048_hack

I like this one. It is from NASA though I’ve heavily hacked it around (I saw it today in a copy of Wired at Mr Polito’s; oh yes, it is online too: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/gallery_volcanoes/3/, but I don’t recommend visiting, the site is mindbogglingly slow, lord knows how much Javash*t they load up). Anyway, it’s the Sarychev volcano (Russia’s Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. I’m not entirely sure what I’m seeing here – real Met Men should comment – or how tall the plume is. Is it hitting the stratosphere?

[Sorry folks -forgot the title :-(]

Comments

  1. #1 David B. Benson
    2009/11/14

    I’m no Met man, but know something about volcanoes. The most important effect is the evaporation of the clouds all around the plume. I’m not sue this can be explained solely by the fact that the rising plume is quite, quite hot, cooling as it rises.

    The next most important thing is that the plume has stopped rising at the top and instead is spreading out. I assume this is for the same reasons as when a cumulus cloud forms an anvil top upon rising to the tropopause.

    The most beautiful is the reformation of water clouds on the top of the plume. I oine this is because the plume top there is sufficiently cold that condensation is able to recover there.

    All told, a most wonderous picture of a phenomenon I am most happy to be viewing from my armchair, not close up and personal.

  2. #2 nick
    2009/11/14

    It’s not caused by the heat, purely by rising air.

    The plume has hit a layer of air with moisture in it. It’s raised by the plume causing a reduction in preasure (its now higher). That causes the moisture to form a cloud.

    Similar effects occur with oragraphic cloud that forms over a hill, pileus cloud the direct equivalent of the effect, and lenticular clouds.

    Nick

  3. #3 GoatRider
    2009/11/14

    I saw an explanation of this when it was on Astronomy Picture of the Day. Rising air cools, and when it cools below it’s dewpoint it condenses, that’s what’s happening with the cloud at the top of the ash column. The clear area is because of the descending air that was displaced by the rising ash column. Sinking area heats up, and when a cloud heats up above it’s dewpoint it evaporates.

  4. #4 Douglas Watts
    2009/11/15

    Looks like a Portugese Man O’ War, but in beige and taupe.

    Very stylish.

  5. #5 Gareth
    2009/11/15

    I passed this on to the editor of the MetSoc of NZ newsletter back in June (I liked Bob’s response: Gareth , your blood is worth bottling. That’s an awesome shot, full of physics, and it will bring a twinkle to many a meteorologist’s eye. I hope I have space.). This then appeared in the June issue (117)…

    Following the publication of this photograph, the atmospheric and volcanic features it captured generated debate among meteorologists, geoscientists. and volcanologists who viewed it. Post-publication, scientists have proposed — and disagreed about — three possible explanations for the hole in the cloud deck above the volcano.

    One explanation is that the hole in the clouds has nothing to do with the eruption at all. In places where islands are surrounded by oceans with cool surface temperatures, it is common for a sheet of clouds to form and drift with the low level winds. When the cloud layer encounters and island, the moist air closer to the surface is forced upward. Because the air above the marine layer is dry, the clouds evaporate, leaving a hole in the cloud deck. These openings, or wakes, in the clouds can extend far downwind of the island, sometimes wrapping into swirling vortices called von Karmen vortices.

    The other two possibilities that scientists have offered appeared in the original caption [here]. One is that the shockwave from the eruption shoved up the overlying atmosphere and disturbed the cloud deck, either making a hole or widening an existing opening. The final possibility is that as the plume rises, air flows down around the sides like water flowing off the back of a surfacing dolphin. As air sinks, it tends to warm; clouds in the air evaporate.

    Got a way with words has Bob. (McDavitt)

  6. #6 passing stranger
    2009/11/15

    It’s a great picture, and the resident volcanologist at ScienceBlogs discussed it in detail when it was released:

    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2009/06/sarychev_peak_update_for_61820.php

  7. #7 Luke Warmer
    2009/11/15

    Boingboing had it in July at this link and I had it as wallpaper for a while – see comments below the pic for some of the “expert” disagreement:

    **Editor’s note: Following the publication of this photograph, the atmospheric and volcanic features it captured generated debate among meteorologists, geoscientists, and volcanologists who viewed it. Post-publication, scientists have proposed—and disagreed about—three possible explanations for the hole in the cloud deck above the volcano.

    One explanation is that the hole in the clouds has nothing to do with the eruption at all. In places where islands are surrounded by oceans with cool surface temperatures, it is common for a sheet of clouds to form and drift with the low-level winds. When the cloud layer encounters an island, the moist air closer to the surface is forced upward. Because the air above the marine layer is dry, the clouds evaporate, leaving a hole in the cloud deck. These openings, or wakes, in the clouds can extend far downwind of the island, sometimes wrapping into swirling eddies called von Karman vortices.

    The other two possibilities that scientists have offered appeared in the original caption. One is that the shockwave from the eruption shoved up the overlying atmosphere and disturbed the cloud deck, either making a hole or widening an existing opening. The final possibility is that as the plume rises, air flows down around the sides like water flowing off the back of a surfacing dolphin. As air sinks, it tends to warm; clouds in the air evaporate.

    From:
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=38985

  8. #8 Magnus Westerstrand
    2009/11/15

    Talking about volcanos from space….

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ef800581r

    [More tripe than volcano methinks -W]

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    2009/11/15

    Aside for William, if you’re using Firefox (and the addon Greasemonkey) you can clean up sites like Wired by going to the root then invoking the addon Platypus. As you move the cursor, chunks of the web page are hilighted. You’ll see all that scripted nonsense that clutters their pages everywhere.

    Get the annoying chunk hilighted, then
    — without moving the cursor
    — right-click
    — use the keyboard (s twice gets you to ‘Smart Remove’ to block that hilighted chunk anywhere on that website).
    Once you save and exit, you’ve got a little script; when you go to any page on or above that root, the nonsense may blink on briefly but then disappears.

    Combine that with AdBlock to block images that are slow nuisances to load, and you get something relatively readable.

    It’s tedious. But I look forward to being able to do it with my eyeglasses some day.

    We have one state in the US that bans highway billboards — Vermont. Using a well crafted Firefox browser to block crap is like driving in Vermont — you don’t know what you could be missing, until you see the world with all the crap removed.

    [Hmm. I think I’ll just avoid wired instead, unless I need to -W]

  10. #10 Taad Laet
    2009/11/15

    Spaceweather.com had some animations of Sarychev’s SO2 emissions from MetOpA satellite:
    http://www.spaceweather.com/images2009/27jun09/gome2_anim.gif
    http://www.spaceweather.com/images2009/03jul09/gome2_big.gif
    and although volcanic sunsets gallery:
    http://www.spaceweather.com/sunsets/gallery_sarychevpeak_2009.htm

    I was interested at this time if Sarychev and Redoubt were strong enough to influence this year’s weather but I didn’t hear anything about it yet.

  11. #11 Alastair
    2009/11/15

    W.,

    Science does not have an answer to everything.

    You ask: “Has the eruption reached the stratosphere?”. The stratosphere is very dry so in theory no clouds can form there. There are sets of cloud in the picture: the central clouds over the eruption, and the clouds in the margin of the picture. It seems that the clouds in the margin are the result of the eruption punching its way through stratus clouds. Other commentators have suggested alternative solutions.

    The problem of the central cloud is more interesting. Although clouds cannot form in the stratosphere because it is too dry, if the volcano pushed air from the troposphere into the stratosphere with water vapour from the eruption, as suggested by David Benson, then condensation could occur.

    As you can see from the replies before and including mine, science does not a have an answer to everything!

  12. #12 llewelly
    2009/11/15

    That volcano is from space? Wow. Not only do aliens abduct people, they discard their unwanted volcano on OUR PLANET!!! THOSE BASTARDS!!!

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.