Volume 20, Issue 21 p. 2359-2362

Properties and decay of stratospheric aerosols in the Arctic following the 1991 eruptions of Mount Pinatubo

Robert S. Stone

Robert S. Stone

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Jeffrey R. Key

Jeffrey R. Key

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Ellsworth G. Dutton

Ellsworth G. Dutton

Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder

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First published: 5 November 1993
Citations: 29

Abstract

Sunphotometer observations made from an aircraft several months after the June 1991 eruptions of Mount Pinatubo are used to quantify the spectral opacity of the Arctic stratosphere. Ancillary surface-based measurements are presented in support of the aircraft data that show large increases in stratospheric optical depth attributed to the presence of volcanic aerosols. Visible optical depths greater than 0.2 were observed during flight segments flown above the tropopause. An inversion algorithm and the optical depth data are used to infer effective aerosol size distributions. The distributions tend to be bimodal, having a large-particle mode radius of about 0.50 µm and a small-particle mode of higher concentration with radii less than 0.18 µm. Surface measurements made during spring 1992 and 1993 are also used to estimate a time constant (e-folding time) of about 13.5 months assuming that the Arctic stratosphere's opacity decays exponentially; this estimate is larger than decay times observed following other major volcanic eruptions. Our results suggest that any climate perturbations in the Arctic caused by the eruptions of Pinatubo may be significant and will very likely persist longer than any volcanically-induced changes observed there during the past century.