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Weather radar retrieval, in terms of detection, estimation, and sensitivity, of volcanic ash plumes is dependent not only on the radar system specifications but also on the range and ash cloud distribution. The minimum detectable signal can be increased, for a given radar and ash plume scenario, by decreasing the observation range and increasing the operational frequency and also by exploiting possible polarimetric capabilities. For short-range observations in proximity of the volcano vent, a compact portable system with relatively low power transmitter may be evaluated as a suitable compromise between observational and technological requirements. This paper, starting from the results of a previous study and from the aforementioned issues, is aimed at quantitatively assessing the optimal choices for a portable X-band system with a dual-polarization capability for real-time ash cloud remote sensing. The physical-electromagnetic model of ash particle distributions is systematically reviewed and extended to include nonspherical particle shapes, vesicular composition, silicate content, and orientation phenomena. The radar backscattering response at X-band is simulated and analyzed in terms of self-consistent polarimetric signatures for ash classification purposes and correlation with ash concentration for quantitative retrieval aims. An X-band radar system sensitivity analysis to ash concentration, as a function of radar specifications, range, and ash category, is carried out in trying to assess the expected system performances and limitations.