Data insertion in volcanic ash cloud forecasting

Kate Louise Wilkins, Shona Mackie, Matthew Watson, Helen N. Webster, David J. Thomson, Helen F. Dacre


During the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in April and May 2010, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre demonstrated the importance of infrared (IR) satellite imagery for monitoring volcanic ash and validating the Met Office operational model, NAME. This model is used to forecast ash dispersion and forms much of the basis of the advice given to civil aviation. NAME requires a source term describing the properties of the eruption plume at the volcanic source. Elements of the source term are often highly uncertain and significant effort has therefore been invested into the use of satellite observations of ash clouds to constrain them. This paper presents a data insertion method, where satellite observations of downwind ash clouds are used to create effective ‘virtual sources’ far from the vent. Uncertainty in the model output is known to increase over the duration of a model run, as inaccuracies in the source term, meteorological data and the parameterizations of the modelled processes accumulate. This new technique, where the dis- persion model (DM) is ‘reinitialized’ part-way through a run, could go some way to addressing this. 


Volcanic ash; remote sensing; dispersion model; forecasting; data assimilation

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X