Atmospheric ice nuclei in the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash plume

H. Bingemer, H. Klein, M. Ebert, W. Haunold, U. Bundke, T. Herrmann, K. Kandler, D. Müller-Ebert, S. Weinbruch, A. Judt, A. Wéber, B. Nillius, K. Ardon-Dryer, Z. Levin, J. Curtius

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28 Scopus citations


We have sampled atmospheric ice nuclei (IN) and aerosol in Germany and in Israel during spring 2010. IN were analyzed by the static vapor diffusion chamber FRIDGE, as well as by electron microscopy. During the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption of April 2010 we have measured the highest ice nucleus number concentrations (>600 l-1) in our record of 2 yr of daily IN measurements in central Germany. Even in Israel, located about 5000 km away from Iceland, IN were as high as otherwise only during desert dust storms. The fraction of aerosol activated as ice nuclei at -18 C and 119% rhice and the corresponding area density of ice-active sites per aerosol surface were considerably higher than what we observed during an intense outbreak of Saharan dust over Europe in May 2008. Pure volcanic ash accounts for at least 53-68% of the 239 individual ice nucleating particles that we collected in aerosol samples from the event and analyzed by electron microscopy. Volcanic ash samples that had been collected close to the eruption site were aerosolized in the laboratory and measured by FRIDGE. Our analysis confirms the relatively poor ice nucleating efficiency (at -18 C and 119% ice-saturation) of such "fresh" volcanic ash, as it had recently been found by other workers. We find that both the fraction of the aerosol that is active as ice nuclei as well as the density of ice-active sites on the aerosol surface are three orders of magnitude larger in the samples collected from ambient air during the volcanic peaks than in the aerosolized samples from the ash collected close to the eruption site. From this we conclude that the ice-nucleating properties of volcanic ash may be altered substantially by aging and processing during long-range transport in the atmosphere, and that global volcanism deserves further attention as a potential source of atmospheric ice nuclei.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-867
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


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