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Authors: Andronico, D.* 
Spinetti, C.* 
Cristaldi, A.* 
Buongiorno, M. F.* 
Title: Observations of Mt. Etna volcanic ash plumes in 2006: an integrated approach from ground-based and polar satellite NOAA-AVHRR monitoring system
Issue Date: 2009
Series/Report no.: /180 (2009)
DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2008.11.013
Keywords: volcanic ash
Mt. Etna
ground monitoring
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.06. Volcano monitoring 
Abstract: Mt. Etna, in Sicily (Italy), is one of the world’s most frequent emitters of volcanic plumes. During the last ten years, Etna has produced copious tephra emission and fallout that have damaged the inhabited and cultivated areas on its slopes and created serious hazards to air traffic. Recurrent closures of the Catania International airport have often been necessary, causing great losses to the local economy. Recently, frequent episodes of ash emission, lasting from a few hours to days, occurred from July to December 2006, necessitating a look at additional monitoring techniques, such as remote sensing. The combination of a ground monitoring system, with polar satellite data represents a novel approach to monitor Etna’s eruptive activity and makes Etna one of the few volcanoes for which this surveillance combination is routinely available. In this work, ash emission information derived from an integrated approach, based on comparing ground and NOAA-AVHRR polar satellite observations, is presented. This approach permits us to define the utility of real time satellite monitoring systems for both sporadic and continuous ash emissions. Using field data (visible observations, collection of tephra samples and accounts by local inhabitants), the duration and intensity of most of the tephra fallout events were evaluated in detail and, in some cases, the order of magnitude of the erupted volume was estimated. The ground data vs. satellite data comparison allowed us to define five different categories of Etna volcanic plumes according to their extension and length, while taking into account plume height and wind intensity. Using frequent and good quality satellite data in real time, this classification scheme could prove helpful for investigations into a possible correlation between eruptive intensity and the presence and concentration of ash in the volcanic plume. The development and improvement of this approach may constitute a powerful warning system for Civil Protection, thus preventing unnecessary airport closures.
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