ISSN 2070-7401 (Print), ISSN 2411-0280 (Online)
Sovremennye problemy distantsionnogo zondirovaniya Zemli iz kosmosa


Sovremennye problemy distantsionnogo zondirovaniya Zemli iz kosmosa, 2019, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 63-73

Automatic detection of volcanic ash using satellite data

A.A. Filei 1 
1 Far-Eastern Center of State Research Center for Space Hydrometeorology “Planeta”, Khabarovsk, Russia
Accepted: 22.03.2019
DOI: 10.21046/2070-7401-2019-16-4-63-73
The paper presents an algorithm for automatic detection of volcanic ash from satellite data using five spectral channels at wavelengths of 0.6, 1.6, 3.7, 11 and 12 microns. Such a choice of spectral channels was physically based on the example of interaction of volcanic ash with electromagnetic spectrum. The detection quality of volcanic ash presented by the “five-channel” algorithm was compared with the classical reverse absorption technique. The reverse absorption technique is based on the brightness temperature difference of 11–12 um (BTD [11, 12]). The comparison was made using several thematic satellite scenes, these scenes represent direct emission of volcanic ash. As a result, the new “five-channel” algorithm is not only more sensitive to the presence of volcanic ash, but also, as a rule, it is less prone to errors inherent in the reverse absorption technique. The algorithm can also detect cloud-mixed volcanic ash when the BTD[11, 12] useful signal of the reverse absorption technique is lost due to the presence of water/ice in the cloud.
Keywords: volcanic ash, brightness temperature, satellite data
Full text


  1. Bonfiglio A., Macchiato M., Pergola N., Pietrapertosa C., Tramutoli V., AVHRR automated detection of volcanic clouds, Intern. J. Remote Sening, 2005, Vol. 26, pp. 9–28, DOI: 10.1080/0143116042000274122.
  2. Buras R., Dowling T., Emde C., New secondary-scattering correction in DISORT with increased efficiency for forward scattering, J. Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer, 2011, Vol. 112(12), pp. 2028–2034, DOI: 10.1016/j.jqsrt.2011.03.019.
  3. Higurashi A., Nakajima T., Detection of aerosol types over the East China Sea near Japan from four-channel satellite data, Geophysical Research Letters, 2002, Vol. 29, 1836 p., DOI: 10.1029/2002GL015357.
  4. Mayer B., Kylling A., Emde C., Buras R., Hamann U., Gasteiger J., Richter B., LibRadtran user’s guide, 2017, 155 p., available at:
  5. Miller T. P., Casadevall T. J., Volcanic ash: Hazards to aviation, Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, 2000, Vol. 1, pp. 915–930.
  6. Pavolonis M. J., A Daytime Complement to the Reverse Absorption Technique for Improved Automated Detection of Volcanic Ash, J. Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 2006, Vol. 23, pp. 1422–1444, DOI: 10.1175/JTECH1926.1.
  7. Pollack J. B., Toon O. B., Khare B. N., Optical properties of some terrestrial rocks and glasses, Icarus, 1973, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 372–389, DOI: 10.1016/0019-1035(73)90115-2.
  8. Prata A. J. (1989a), Observations of volcanic ash clouds in the 10–12-micron window using AVHRR/2 Data, Intern. J. Remote Sensing, 1989, Vol. 10(4–5), pp. 751–761, DOI: 10.1080/01431168908903916.
  9. Prata A. J. (1989b), Radiative transfer calculations for volcanic ash clouds, Geophysical Research Letters, 1989, Vol. 16(11), pp. 1293–1296, DOI: 10.1029/GL016i011p01293.
  10. Prata A. J., Bluth G. J. S., Rose W. I., Schneider D. J., Tupper A. C., Comments on “Failures in detecting volcanic ash from a satellite-based technique”, Remote Sensing of Environment, 2001, Vol. 78, pp. 341–346, DOI: 10.1016/S0034-4257(01)00231-0.
  11. Yu T. X., Rose W. I., Prata A. J., Atmospheric correction for satellite-based volcanic ash mapping and retrievals using “split window” IR data from GOES and AVHRR, J. Geophysical Research, 2002, V. 107, 4311 p., DOI: 10.1029/2001JD000706.