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NASA Balloons Study Effects of Volcanic Eruption

A team of NASA and University of Wyoming scientists has ventured into the Australian bush to send a series of balloons aloft. The balloons will make measurements of a volcanic plume originating from neighboring Indonesia.

The campaign, in Australia’s Northern Territory, is part of an effort to better understand the climate effects of volcanic eruptions.

The KlAsh (Kelud Ash) experiment is based in Darwin, Australia, where smaller balloon payloads are being launched over the Indian Ocean. Larger balloons, with payloads that must be recovered, are being launched from Corroboree, a remote area about 60 miles south of Darwin.

The larger balloon, filled with helium, measures about 115 by 65 feet when fully inflated.

Almost all of the energy entering Earth’s climate system comes from the sun. Some of that energy is absorbed by the planet, while the rest is radiated back into space. Ash and sulfate reflect and absorb energy differently, and may also have different chemical impacts on the stratosphere.

“Understanding those characteristics is important for climate models that include periodic volcanic activity,” said Terry Deshler, principal investigator for the University of Wyoming’s instrumentation.

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Also: Learn about Targeting and Monitoring of Volcanic Activity.