Inverse Modeling of the Initial Stage of the 1991 Pinatubo Volcanic Cloud Accounting for Radiative Feedback of Volcanic Ash

Alexander Ukhov, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, Sergey Osipov, Nickolay Krotkov, Nick Gorkavyi, C. Li, Oleg Dubovik, A. Lopatin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The way volcanic clouds evolve is very sensitive to the initial spatial 3D distributions of volcanic materials, which are often unknown. In this study, we conducted inverse modeling of the Mt. Pinatubo cloud using TOMS 2D mapping of Aerosol Index and SO2 loading during the first three post-eruption days to estimate the time-dependent emissions profiles and initial 3D spatial distributions of volcanic ash and SO2. We account for aerosol radiative feedback and dynamic lofting of volcanic ash in the inversion calculations for the first time. This resulted in a lower ash injection height (by 1.5 km for ash) than without ash radiative feedback. The Pinatubo eruption ejected ≈ 77% of fine ash at 12 to 23 km, ≈ 65% of SO2 at 18 to 25 km. In contrast with previous studies, which suggested that all volcanic materials were emitted above the tropopause, a significant fraction of SO2 (5.1 of 15.5 Mt) and fine ash (37.2 of 66.5 Mt) were ejected in the troposphere, where SO2 quickly oxidized into sulfate aerosol that is short-lived in the troposphere. This explains the early presence of sulfate aerosols in the plume and why the models can reproduce the observed volcanic aerosols’ optical depth (AOD), assuming lower-than-observed SO2 emission in the stratosphere. Despite the quicker than in observations build-up of sulfate AOD, in a month after the eruption, the evolution of the Pinatubo AOD simulated using the obtained ash and SO2 initial distributions converges with the available stratospheric aerosol and gas experiment (SAGE) observations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
StatePublished - Jun 3 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-06-06
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). For computer time, this research used the resources of the Supercomputing Laboratory at KAUST.


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