The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) deployed a transportable Doppler C-band radar during the precursory stage of the 2009 eruption of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska that provided valuable information during subsequent explosive events. We describe the capabilities of this new monitoring tool and present data captured during the Redoubt eruption. The MiniMax 250-C (MM-250C) radar detected seventeen of the nineteen largest explosive events between March 23 and April 4, 2009. Sixteen of these events reached the stratosphere (above 10 km) within 2–5 min of explosion onset. High column and proximal cloud reflectivity values (50 to 60 dBZ) were observed from many of these events, and were likely due to the formation of mm-sized accretionary tephra-ice pellets. Reflectivity data suggest that these pellets formed within the first few minutes of explosion onset. Rapid sedimentation of the mm-sized pellets was observed as a decrease in maximum detection cloud height. The volcanic cloud from the April 4 explosive event showed lower reflectivity values, due to finer particle sizes (related to dome collapse and related pyroclastic flows) and lack of significant pellet formation. Eruption durations determined by the radar were within a factor of two compared to seismic and pressure-sensor derived estimates, and were not well correlated. Ash dispersion observed by the radar was primarily in the upper troposphere below 10 km, but satellite observations indicate the presence of volcanogenic clouds in the stratosphere. This study suggests that radar is a valuable complement to traditional seismic and satellite monitoring of explosive eruptions.
Additional publication details
Doppler weather radar observations of the 2009 eruption of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska