Mt Etna Sicily
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Mt. Etna, Sicily

January 18, 2006
Etna, Europe's highest and most active volcano (3370 m) hurled lava and ash into the sky with a speed between 350 and 450 meters per second, on Monday 28th October 2002. As seen in the image acquired by the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) onboard ESA's Envisat satellite. According to data from volcanologists, the lava and ash were ejected from the main crater and from at least nine new craters that developed on the mountain between 2300 to 2700 meters in altitude. The eruptions spewed significant amounts of ash, along with sulphur dioxide, into the atmosphere. The plume from the volcano can be seen in the image stretching south and west from Sicily to the north African coast. The larger volcanic ash particles are expected to settle out in a short period of time, but the sulphuric acid aerosols produced by the sulphur dioxide will persist for several years. These aerosols will impact the Earth's energy budget, both regionally and on a global scale. Aerosols containing black graphite and carbon particles are dark, thus absorbing sunlight. As these atmospheric particles reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the planet's surface, they increase the amount of solar energy absorbed in the atmosphere, thus simultaneously cooling the surface and warming the atmosphere. The capability of the MERIS instrument to observe the spatial distribution of these aerosol plumes can be exploited to measure the amounts of airborne particles and to examine the role of these aerosols as cloud condensation nuclei and their impact on the hydrologic cycle through changes in cloud cover, cloud properties and precipitation.

Technical Information:
  • Satellite: Envisat
  • Instrument: MERIS
  • Acquisition: 28-Oct-2002
  • Orbit nr: 3454
  • Center coordinates: lat. 36.75, lon. 14.62

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