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Thermally induced convective circulation and precipitation over an isolated volcano

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Abstract

Intense rainfall over active volcanoes is known to trigger dangerous volcanic hazards, from remobilizing loose volcanic surface material into lahars or mudflows to initiating explosive activity including pyroclastic flows at certain dome-forming volcanoes. However, the effect of the heated volcanic surface on the atmospheric circulation, including any feedback with precipitation, is unknown. This is investigated here, using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. The recent activity at the Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV), Montserrat, is a well-documented case of such rainfall–volcano interaction and is used as a template for these experiments. The volcano is represented in the model by an idealized Gaussian mountain, with an imposed realistic surface temperature anomaly on the volcano summit. A robust increase in precipitation over the volcano is simulated for surface temperature anomalies above approximately 40°C, an area-average value that is exceeded at the SHV. For wind speeds less than 4 m s−1 and a range of realistic atmospheric conditions, the precipitation increase is well above the threshold required to trigger volcanic hazards (5–10 mm h−1). Hence, the thermal atmospheric forcing due to an active, but nonerupting, volcano appears to be an important factor in rainfall–volcano interactions and should be taken account of in future hazard studies.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1886
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Volume73
Issue number4
Early online date13 Jul 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Peer-reviewedYes

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