NicAIR is a thermal infrared imaging camera used to measure gases and particles in the atmosphere from a safe distance (ground based up to 20 Km) and can operate 24 hours a day. The system uses up to four different waveband filters allowing for the quantification of sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas and volcanic ash.
NicAIR measures infrared radiation using four wavelength filters in order to measure the properties of volcanic plumes. At present, the instrument is able to quantify the sulfur dioxide and volcanic ash components of plumes. The instrument has been tested at a range of locations including Kamchatka, Central and South America and Indonesia.
The animation demonstrates how the system can be used in the analysis of volcanic plume features. The arrows indicate rise rates for particles in the plume, which have been calculates using an automated feature tracking system. The ability to measure and visualize plume rise rates has important applications in volcanology towards a better understanding of volcanic systems and in atmospheric sciences, to incorporate eruption source parameters into atmospheric models.
NicAIR is able to measure silicate dust in the atmosphere which has significant environmental effects in many parts of the world. We have been working with the Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (AEMET) to monitor dust blown from the Sahara Desert towards the Canary Islands and have performed measurements with the instrument on El Teide, Tenerife.
The system also has industrial applications and has been used to measure SO2 emissions from ships and power stations. The industrial input of SO2 into the atmosphere has important climatological effects and so the ability to accurately quantify these emissions, and to monitor their dispersal in the atmosphere has great environmental significance.