Volcano Report Introduction Eyjafjallajokull has recently erupted; this volcanic eruption which happened in Iceland is potentially very dangerous to flights taking place in Northern Europe. Eyjafjallajokull is located on the boundary of the North American plate and Eurasian plate. Eyjafjallajokull is 1600 metres above sea level with ice at its tip. There have been two known eruptions since the time of settlement (874 A. D). The most recent eruption was a relatively small one that happened sometime between 1821 and 1823. Sturkell (2003).
This type of volcanism is associated with plate hypothesis volcanism. The resulting ash cloud has a 58% concentration of silica which is potentially abrasive to jet engines. The ash cloud has erupted to heights of 30000 feet and the wind direction over the next two days has been predicted to stem from a west/north westerly position. As the U. K is located to the south west of Iceland this is obviously concerning. My task is to analyse atmospheric maps to predict and plot the likely path of the ash cloud. Following this, the data collected will be used to write a report for U.
K’s air traffic control service (NATS) showing the levels of risk and areas of air space that are likely to have to be closed until the volcanic dust has travelled a safe distance away from these areas. The Met Office has produced 4 different surface pressure forecast maps, one that is the present time and the three others 12, 24 and 36 hours in the future. These four maps along with my prior knowledge of atmospheric circulation are the tools that will be used to predict future movements of the ash cloud. The above image displays the current situation in Iceland.
The ash cloud is heading in a South/ South Easterly direction which is compliant with a depression as this is an anti-clockwise direction. T + 0 (present time) – surface pressure forecast for the North Atlantic The above image shows that Iceland is surrounded predominantly by areas of low pressure. To the south of the U. K there are areas of high pressure covering Northern Spain and the ocean area to the west of Spain and Portugal. Italy is currently experiencing high pressure whilst Sardinia is experiencing low pressure. The weather fronts closest to Iceland are ccluded (the warm and cold fronts have combined). A depression is currently where the dust cloud is situated. This means that winds will be travelling in an anti-clockwise direction towards the centre of the pressure system. The evidence suggests that the ash cloud is heading towards the North West coast of the U. K. T + 12 (the prediction for 12 ahead) – surface pressure forecast for the North Atlantic It is anticipated that in 12 hours’ time low pressure from the north will oscillate in a southern direction. Parts of the U.
K are likely to experience low pressure. This will result in high pressure areas and low pressure areas being brought closer together. The outcome of this will be higher wind speeds. These higher wind speeds will have an increasing impact on the Coriolis Effect. Winds may therefore be deflected further to the east as wind speed increases. The isobars located on the U. Ks western coast indicate that winds are strong as they are close together which indicates a high pressure gradient. As wind speed is increasing the volcanic dust may reach the coast of the U.
K quicker than previously anticipated. The first areas likely to be affected are Northern Ireland and the east coast of Scotland. Airports in these areas may have to be shut down first depending on the course the ash cloud takes. There is an occluded front on the coast of Northern Ireland and the West Coast of Scotland heading in an easterly direction. T + 24 – surface pressure forecast for the North Atlantic 24 hours into the future high pressure areas beneath the U. K are expected to oscillate further south over southern Spain and parts of northern Africa.
This will produce colder conditions in the Northern Atlantic area and may reduce wind speeds. There are two warm fronts passing over the U. K in a north/north easterly direction. This should protect the south of England and push the ash cloud to the North East of England and Scotland. T + 36 – surface pressure forecast for the North Atlantic There is now a warm front heading over the U. K towards the east. This is followed by a second warm front which is approaching the South West Coast of Ireland. The threat to aviation of the Icelandic dust cloud could result in death.
If the concentration of volcanic dust is too high in the atmosphere jet engine planes may malfunction and crash which is likely to be catastrophic for all on board. When planning which areas are safe and which are not it is best to air on the side of caution as a miscalculation or drastic change in wind direction could result in areas initially thought to be suitable for aircraft are not. Below is a hazard map of the North Atlantic showing areas of low, medium and high risk and the recommended airport closures.
Wick airport in Caithness, Scotland is the most northerly airport in the U. K. The predicted path of the volcanic ash cloud is likely to affect Wick first and so this airport should be closed. Wick is a small airport compared to Edinburgh and Glasgow but is used by some aircraft to refuel. These planes should be grounded until notified otherwise. All flights in Ireland and Scotland are to be grounded also. Flights travelling across the Northern Atlantic should divert south to avoid the ash cloud as this area is of the highest risk.
Flights due to arrive in Ireland, Scotland and northern England would be safer to land in the South of England at airports such as Heathrow or Gatwick which are very large and may be able to cope with the extra incoming flights. References Sturkell, E. Freysteinn, S. (2003) ‘Recent unrest and magma movements at Eyjafjallajo? kull and Katla volcanoes, Iceland’ Journal of Geophysical Research [online] 1-2 Available from <https://notendur. hi. is/~heidi/Data/Articlerichard/Sturkelletal03b. pdf> [10 February 2012] Words-1027