Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech

Simon Carn

Assistant Professor

424 Dow


906-487-3371 (fax)


Home Page:

Personal statement

Volcanic hazard mitigation and elucidation of the effects of volcanic activity on the atmosphere and climate are two predominant themes underpinning current volcanological research. Both require accurate measurements of the amounts of lava, tephra and gases emitted by volcanoes, along with maps of their distribution, whether lofted into the Earth’s atmosphere or emplaced on the ground. Remote sensing is a unique source of this information, ranging from ground-based campaigns at approachable volcanoes to satellite measurements in the paroxysmal phase of eruptions.


B.A., Earth Sciences, Oxford University, UK, 1993
D.E.A. (Masters), Volcanology and Magmatic Processes, Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 1994
Ph.D., Volcanology, Cambridge University, UK, 1999

Research interests

My current research focus is the application of remote sensing data to studies of volcanic degassing, volcanic eruption clouds, and anthropogenic pollution. Space-borne sensors such as the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite now allow us to probe the chemistry of the lower troposphere and measure the abundance of sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone, bromine monoxide (BrO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and other important trace gases with unprecedented sensitivity. The cross-platform sensor synergy provided by NASA’s A-Train satellite constellation is advancing our knowledge of volcanic cloud composition and transport. My main focus is SO2, a precursor of sulfate aerosol, which plays an important role in the atmosphere through negative climate forcing and impacts on cloud microphysics. The spatiotemporal variability of natural and anthropogenic SO2 emissions, and hence of global sulfate aerosol abundance, is poorly constrained, impacting the accuracy of climate models. Current and imminent activities include:

  • Using satellite measurements to constrain global volcanic SO2 production and emissions from individual volcanoes
  • Validation of OMI SO2 retrievals using correlative data from ground-based, airborne and space-borne instruments
  • Tracking volcanic SO2 and ash clouds operationally for aviation hazard mitigation
  • Remote sensing of tropospheric volcanic plumes using DOAS and FTIR
  • Quantifying anthropogenic emissions of SO2 from sources such as copper smelters and oil and gas fields
  • Mitigation of the environmental and health impacts of volcanic degassing using satellite data
  • Comparisons between satellite observations and chemical transport model simulations of volcanic clouds and plumes

Personal website: