Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aura Sees Volcanic Plumes in Near Real-Time

Orbiting 700 km above the Earth, NASA’s Aura spacecraft is responsible for keeping an eye on the health of our atmosphere. So, when a volcano decides to cough some of its fumes into the air, Aura is there to see it. That’s what happened during the January 1, 2008 eruption of the Llaima Volcano in Chile. As the volcano erupted, Aura orbited overhead and picked up the SO2 emissions from the volcano. The resulting image shows the movement of the plume of volcanic gas over the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to understanding the movement of air masses in the atmosphere, tracking volcanic plumes is important because the resulting ash and acidic air masses can cause damage to aircraft. This isn’t the first time Aura was able to spot volcanic plumes. Scientists studying Aura data were also able to track the eruption of the Anatahan and Soufriere Hills Volcanic eruptions in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

For more information about how Aura tracks the volcanic eruptions, visit the following websites: