Remote Sensing of Volcanic Eruption Clouds Using AVHRR

David J. Schneider, David J. Delene, William I. Rose and Shiming Wen
Department of Geological Engineering and Sciences
Michigan Technological University


The purpose of this document is to provide a tutorial on the use of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data for the detection and discrimination of volcanic clouds, and for the retrieval of cloud optical depth, particle mass and effective radius. Eruptions of various scales, geographic region, and atmospheric conditions are examined. Detailed instructions are provided on the use of RADIANNET, a radiative transfer model for retrieving cloud properties.


During the past 15 years, there have been more the 80 incidents of jet aircraft encountering volcanic clouds. Seven of these incidents resulted in the in-flight loss of engine power, which could have resulted in the crash of the aircraft, and repair costs (up to mid-1994) have been estimated at more than $200 million. [Casdevall, 1994; U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2047.] As a result of these encounters, there has been research done on the satellite detection and tracking of volcanic clouds using theAdvanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). This research has shown that it is possible to detect and track volcanic clouds using a dual thermal-IR proceedure.

Background Information

Introduction to RADIANNET

Browse Gallery of Eruptions Observed using AVHRR

This page maintained by Dave Schneider (