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TOMS Measurement of the Sulfur Dioxide Emitted During the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz Eruptions

Arlin J. Krueger, Louis S. Walter, Charles C. Schnetzler and Scott D. Doiron

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research (1990), v. 41, 7-15

  Abstract. The eruptions of Nevado del Ruiz in 1985 were unusually rich in sulfur dioxide. These eruptions were observed with the Nimbus 7 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) which can quantitatively map volcanic sulfur dioxide plumes on a global scale. A small eruption, originally believed to be of phreatic origin, took place on September 11, 1985. However, substantial amounts of sulfur dioxide from this eruption were detected with TOMS on the following day. The total mass of SO2, approximately 9 +/- 3 x 10^4 metric tons, was deposited in two clouds, one in the upper troposphere, the other possibly at 15 km near the stratosphere.

The devastating November 13 eruptions were first observed with TOMS at 1150 EST on November 14. Large amounts of sulfur dioxide were found in an arc extending 1100 km from south of Ruiz northeastward to the Gulf of Venezuela and as an isolated cloud centered at 7N on the Colombia-Venezueal border. On November 15 the plume extended over 2700 km from the Pacific Ocean off the Colombia coast to Barbados, while the isolated masss was located over the Brazil-Guyana border, approximately 1600 km due east of the volcano. Based on wind data from Panama, most of the sulfur dioxide was located at 10-16 km in the troposphere and a small amount was quite likely deposited in the stratosphere at an altitude above 24 km.

The total mass of sulfur dioxide in the eruption clouds was approximately 6.6 +/- 1.9 x 10^5 metric tons on November 14. When combined with quiescent sulfur dioxide emissions during this period, the ratio of sulfur dioxide to erupted magma from Ruiz was an order of magnitude greater than in the 1982 eruption of El Chichon or the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.