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Intercomparison of SO2 camera systems for imaging volcanic gas plumes

Kern C., P. Lübcke, N. Bobrowski, R. Campion, T. Mori, J.-F. Smekens, K. Stebel, G. Tamburello, M. Burton, U.Platt, F. Prata.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Volume 300, Pages 22-36, doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2014.08.026.


SO2 camera systems are increasingly being used to image volcanic gas plumes. The ability to derive SO2 emission rates directly from the acquired imagery at high time resolution allows volcanic process studies that incorporate other high time-resolution datasets. Though the general principles behind the SO2 camera have remained the same for a number of years, recent advances in CCD technology and an improved understanding of the physics behind the measurements have driven a continuous evolution of the camera systems. Here we present an intercomparison of seven different SO2 cameras. In the first part of the experiment, the various technical designs are compared and the advantages and drawbacks of individual design options are considered. Though the ideal design was found to be dependent on the specific application, a number of general recommendations are made. Next, a time series of images recorded by all instruments at Stromboli Volcano (Italy) is compared. All instruments were easily able to capture SO2 clouds emitted from the summit vents. Quantitative comparison of the SO2 load in an individual cloud yielded an intra-instrument precision of about 12%. From the imagery, emission rates were then derived according to each group’s standard retrieval process. A daily average SO2 emission rate of 61 ± 10 t/d was calculated. Due to differences in spatial integration methods and plume velocity determination, the time-dependent progression of SO2 emissions varied significantly among the individual systems. However, integration over distinct degassing events yielded comparable SO2 masses. Based on the intercomparison data, we find an approximate 1-sigma precision of 20% for the emission rates derived from the various SO2 cameras. Though it may still be improved in the future, this is currently within the typical accuracy of the measurement and is considered sufficient for most applications.