25-year anniversary of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption

June 15th, 2016 |

GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

During the first 2 weeks of June 1991 the Mount Pinatubo volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines began to produce a series of eruptions, culminating in the climactic eruption beginning at 0227 UTC on 15 June. An animation of 5-km resolution GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images (above) spans the period from 1831 UTC on 12 June to 1831 UTC on 16 June, and showed the very large volcanic cloud following the 15 June eruption (the animation pauses at the 0230 UTC image on 15 June — just after the time of the major eruption). Also evident in the imagery was the westward movement of what became Category 3 Typhoon Yunya (known locally in the Philippines as Diding) toward Luzon. A larger-scale version of the animation is available here.

A closer view of the GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images (below) revealed interesting characteristics of the volcanic plume which penetrated the tropopause (which was at an air temperature of around -83º C, according to nearby rawinsonde reports) during the 3-8 hours following the onset of the 0227 UTC eruption. Note the initial appearance of a small area of very warm IR cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (-21.6º C at 0631 UTC, and -25.7º C at 0730 UTC) which then blossomed outward and became a westward-moving stratospheric plume that was notably warmer than the majority of the cold volcanic cloud canopy (which exhibited IR brightness temperatures in the -80º to -90º C range, denoted by the violet to yellow color enhancement).

GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images [click to enlarge]

GMS-4 Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images [click to enlarge]

———————————————————————————————————-

NOAA-10 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm), Visible (0.91 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-10 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm), Visible (0.91 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A higher-resolution (1.1-km) view of the post-eruption cloud was provided by NOAA-10 AVHRR images at 1034 UTC on 15 June (above). Even though it was just past sunset over the Philippines, the narrow stratospheric plume could be seen towering above the canopy of the main volcanic cloud (the plume was at a high enough altitude — estimated at a maximum of 40 km (reference 1 | reference 2) — to still be illuminated by sunlight). The summit of Pinatubo is located 8.7 miles/14 km west-southwest of what was then Clark Air Force Base (station identifier RPLC). On the 10.8 µm Infrared Window image, cloud-top gravity waves could be seen propagating radially outward from the overshooting top located above the volcano (which exhibited a minimum IR brightness temperature of -86º C, violet color enhancement). Note the much warmer IR brightness temperatures (as warm as -31º C, green color enhancement) associated with the stratospheric plume just off the west coast of Luzon. A closer view is available here.

About 10 hours prior to the climactic eruption, a volcanic ash cloud from one of the earlier eruptions was captured by NOAA-10 AVHRR images at 2329 UTC on 14 June (below). Around this same time it can be seen that Yunya was making landfall as a minimal-intensity typhoon along the eastern coast of Luzon. A closer view is available here.

NOAA-10 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm), Visible (0.91 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-10 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm), Visible (0.91 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]