Forecasting the volcanic ash plume of Iceland's volcano

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:45 PM GMT on April 19, 2010

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The eruption of Iceland's volcano with the unpronounceable name, Eyjafjallajökull, has virtually ceased over the past few hours, with ash only reaching up to 6,000 feet (1800 meters), according to the latest advisory from the UK Met Office. Lightning images from UK Met Office show no new lightning strikes from the volcano's plume since midnight local time today. The relatively small amount of ash present at low altitudes will probably not be able to make it all the way to mainland Europe before falling to the surface and dissipating, since 6,000 feet is below the altitude that the strong winds of jet stream blow. Wednesday through Sunday, the volcano emitted a towering cloud of volcanic ash 6 - 11 km (20,000 - 36,000') high in the air from its 1666 meter (5500') high peak. The jet stream blows strongly at that altitude range, which allowed for efficient transport of the ash cloud to mainland Europe.


Figure 1. Lightning lights up the night sky in this photo of Eyjafjallajökull's eruption taken on April 16, 2010. Ash particles colliding together separate electric charge, much as ice particles in a thunderstorm do, leading to spectacular lightning displays. Image credit: Marco, Fulle, Stromboli Online.

Forecasts of the movement of the ash cloud are made using trajectory models, which have a number of uncertainties to consider. Firstly, the amount of ash ejected by the volcano is highly uncertain, since our measurements of this quantity are limited. Secondly, the models must compute how high the ash cloud will rise (plume rise), based on the best available measurements of atmospheric stability. Since upper air-observations are taken just twice daily by a very coarse network of balloon soundings, our knowledge of the stability is rather crude. Finally, the trajectory models use forecast winds from a global model such as the GFS model to predict where the plume may go. The forecast winds from this model do not capture much of the complicated structure of the wind field over Europe, leading to a rather fuzzy approximation of where the ash will go. Nevertheless, these models have in general done a respectable job forecasting where the ash from Eyjafjallajökull will go over the past few days.


Figure 2. Cross section of the atmosphere over time over Paliseau, France, on April 16, 2010, as observed using ground-based lidar. Image taken using a 532nm cross polarization NFOV telescope. Note how the ash layer sinks closer to the ground as time progresses, as gravity makes the ash sink to the ground. There may also be some atmospheric subsidence occurring (downward moving air due to large-scale atmospheric processes.) Image credit: Ray Hoff, World Meteorological Organization's Global Atmosphere Watch's Aerosol Lidar Network (GALION).

For the next few days, these models continue to indicate that northwest winds at the jet stream level will continue to affect Iceland. As a result, Spain, Portugal, and Greece will offer the best locations to fly from. The northwesterly winds are expected to continue for the remainder of the week, thanks to an upper-level trough of low pressure over northern Europe. On Saturday April 24, the ECMWF model predicts that the trough will slide eastwards, and a ridge of high pressure will build over Europe. This will bring upper-level winds out of the southwest to Iceland, directing any volcanic ash northwards over the North Pole. Thus for the remainder of this week, expect continued ash clouds over much of Europe if the volcano resumes significant eruptions. But by next Sunday, the ash over Europe should decline considerably. For the latest one-day forecasts of where the ash cloud is expected to go, consult the UKMET Office. The Rhenish Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Cologne also has some excellent simulations from an atmospheric dispersion model of Eyjafjallajökull's eruption plume. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research runs a computer trajectory model called FLEXPART that has 1-day forecasts showing a cross section of the atmosphere. NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) lets you perform your own model run using their HYSPLIT model, going out up to 48 hours, using the GFS model as input.


Figure 3. NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the eruption at 1:20 UTC on April 17, 2010. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Links
An excellent source of links of information on the eruption is available at http://islande2010.mbnet.fr/2010/04/eyjafjallajok ul-links-liens-a-propos-de-leyjafjallajokul/. My post on Thursday discusses the likely non-impact of this eruption on Earth's climate. Finally, we need to be keeping an eye on earthquake activity at the dangerous Katla volcano next to Eyjafjallajökull. If that volcano blows, it could mean dwarf the headaches caused by Eyjafjallajökull.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Well then let's talk about the man who got his name from scrabble letters, Obama!
Whatever. Rather talk about food than politics, though. Or maybe even [gasp] weather!

Speaking of wx, did u guys get any more rain today?
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Some where in Florida a Tea Kettle is Burling over..

LoL

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Quoting BahaHurican:
Yum! What u are baking sounds much more interesting than Palin... and if anybody wants to ban somebody in here for talking about FOOD, I gotta tellya, u needta getta life....
Well then let's talk about the man who got his name from scrabble letters, Obama!
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Quoting WaterWitch11:
baked pink lady apples, sugars, cinnamon. lemon & grand marnier. yummy.

i figured if you guys can talk about how smart Palin is, i could talk about what i'm baking!

i can finally see the volcano.
Yum! What u are baking sounds much more interesting than Palin... and if anybody wants to ban somebody in here for talking about FOOD, I gotta tellya, u needta getta life....
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Easy to disagree when you've never experienced the Weather of a Hurricane,or thunderstorms..per say.

Its way more than any number can quantify,..ask anyone from Masters to others about their collective experiences in The Eyewall and you will get a lot of input on Hurricanes.


AT the end of the day..its how it interacts in our Lives,and thats a thing one cant put a number on in retrospect.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Quoting Bordonaro:
Latest Ash Forecast from the UK Met office:

Link below to the UK Met Office:
Link
Ashes eventually going to reach NYC, that will not be good.
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Latest Ash Forecast from the UK Met office:

Link below to the UK Met Office:
Link
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Hey, I never claimed to be perfect. Maybe u did. I don't blog on CNN because politics doesn't grab me that much. I'd much rather blog weather. But that doesn't mean I will always resist the temptation to make a character comment on a political or other public figure from time to time. [shrugs] So sue me.

And on the subject of weather, I notice there is no data about damages to the Bahamas from the 1947 hurricane. I'm sure there is something available at the National Archives or in the dead files of either of the two Nassau dailies. Maybe I'll make a vacation project out of digging into that....
Sue you???? That is a little over the top don't you think? lol
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Quoting Levi32:


That's just me disagreeing with the NHC. It's probably just because they had no recon vortex messages near that time.....but just take one long look at that picture. A Cat 5 can pretty much be defined as a "perfect" hurricane, because it literally has to be perfect.

Gotcha. I have always thought that Ivan was a rather unimpressive Cat 5 during that time as well, but I've never thought it through as much as that. Thanks for clarifying!
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there at least one on this page, and prolly several more on the last page.. I'm addicted too
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
How many times must all of you bloggers need to be reminded that this blog is solely for weather purposes and not politics. Why don't you blog comments on CNN?
Hey, I never claimed to be perfect. Maybe u did. I don't blog on CNN because politics doesn't grab me that much. I'd much rather blog weather. But that doesn't mean I will always resist the temptation to make a character comment on a political or other public figure from time to time. [shrugs] So sue me.

And on the subject of weather, I notice there is no data about damages to the Bahamas from the 1947 hurricane. I'm sure there is something available at the National Archives or in the dead files of either of the two Nassau dailies. Maybe I'll make a vacation project out of digging into that....
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Wasn't that ADM (Atmospheric Dynamic Mission) satellite supposed to launch in Spring 2010?

From what I've read, it would be like having a space-based Doppler radar that would really improve tropical storm monitoring.

I haven't seen anything in the news about it launching or being in use. Does anyone know about the schedule or delay?
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I kept reading how the Iceland Volcano would not affect the US or even the Atlantic in any way, so it's surprising to find out today it affected me here in upstate NY. My teacher was away at Sweden for the past 2 weeks, and I found out today he can't come back until the ash clears, so probably not next week and maybe not even for the final exam!
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Watching this webcam is better than cable! lol, jk.
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baked pink lady apples, sugars, cinnamon. lemon & grand marnier. yummy.

i figured if you guys can talk about how smart Palin is, i could talk about what i'm baking!

i can finally see the volcano.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1636
Quoting AussieStorm:

Link
Thanks
Quoting PcolaDan:


Whole bunch of links on my blog. But this is probably the on you want. Link
Thanks
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Out of curiosity, does that mean that you are disagreeing with the NHC track, or was is preliminarily rated Cat 5 by NHC and later downgraded at that point during post storm analysis, or am I just missing it entirely?


That's just me disagreeing with the NHC. It's probably just because they had no recon vortex messages near that time.....but just take one long look at that picture. A Cat 5 can pretty much be defined as a "perfect" hurricane, because it literally has to be perfect.
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pssst..just Look UP

Links
An excellent source of links of information on the eruption is available at http://islande2010.mbnet.fr/2010/04/eyjafjallajokul-links-liens-a-propos-de-leyjafjallajokul/. My post on Thursday discusses the likely non-impact of this eruption on Earth's climate. Finally, we need to be keeping an eye on earthquake activity at the dangerous Katla volcano next to Eyjafjallajökull. If that volcano blows, it could mean dwarf the headaches caused by Eyjafjallajökull.

Jeff Masters
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Anyone have the link to the Iceland volcano web cam?


Whole bunch of links on my blog. But this is probably the on you want. Link
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting Levi32:


Because he's not really a Cat 5 in that picture....far from it. The NHC track says he was at the time but he wasn't lol.

Out of curiosity, does that mean that you are disagreeing with the NHC track, or was is preliminarily rated Cat 5 by NHC and later downgraded at that point during post storm analysis, or am I just missing it entirely?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Anyone have the link to the Iceland volcano web cam?

Link
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
Quoting AussieStorm:


Is that a serious quote????


no...
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Anyone have the link to the Iceland volcano web cam?
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From the Wiki on the '32 hurricane:

Impact
16 people were reported killed, along with an additional 300 injured. All of this toll occurred in the Bahamas, notably on and around Abaco Island; damage estimates in dollars, however, were not released.[1]

[edit] Bahamas
The storm was very destructive on Abaco Island, where the reported barometric pressure was unofficially below 27.50 inches (931 mbar). On Green Turtle Cay, near Abaco Island, two brick churches were destroyed by the storm and winds were estimated by one resident to have exceeded 200 mph (320 km/h); some of the stone blocks from the churches were reportedly carried a half mile away.

I wonder if this was straight-line damage or embedded vortices...
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I think the sadder thing about the Palin quote is that it is so.... believable as attributable to her...

Be that as it may, back to CAT 5 HURRICANES OF THE ATLANTIC..... TWC special for the upcoming season? who knows....
How many times must all of you bloggers need to be reminded that this blog is solely for weather purposes and not politics. Why don't you blog comments on CNN?
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I think the sadder thing about the Palin quote is that it is so.... believable as attributable to her...

Be that as it may, back to CAT 5 HURRICANES OF THE ATLANTIC..... TWC special for the upcoming season? who knows....
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Levi, The GFS is still showing an area of low pressure along Panama in the 18z model.

Here it is 372 hours out:



384 hours out it also shows an area of low pressure with 1008MB located around 50 degrees west.

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Quoting Levi32:
Can we not talk politics right now....

There are more than enough blogs on here for that...thanks.

I apologize Levi and all the WU Bloggers!
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Hmmm... The Bahamas and the Yucatan are tied for # of cat 5 landfalls at 3 each. Interestingly, each of the intense Bahamas hurricanes were also relatively small.
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Quoting Patrap:


We all would love to see just "one" from her..for the archives.

The previous quote came from a "Sarah Palin U5A", not Sarah Palin.

Link to Palin's Twitter Feed:
Link
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Quoting Bordonaro:

Just think, if McCain would have been elected President of the USA, she would have been our Vice President.

Now that is a scary thought!!

obviously she doesn't know that Iceland is known as the land of "Fire and Ice"
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
Quoting Levi32:


Yeah that is annoying isn't it.
yes sir.
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Can we not talk politics right now....

There are more than enough blogs on here for that...thanks.
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Quoting Bordonaro:

The "Eyjafjallajökull frá Valahnúk" web-cam has some molten magma erupting, notice in the upper right-hand corner :o).
some lightening too but not as much iam watchin
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54390
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Read the story I just posted about Ivan. Man, I hate that hurricane!


Yeah that is annoying isn't it.
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Quoting Levi32:


Because he's not really a Cat 5 in that picture....far from it. The NHC track says he was at the time but he wasn't lol.
Read the story I just posted about Ivan. Man, I hate that hurricane!
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I remember a couple years back I was vacationing in Marco Island, FL a couple years back. And Hurricane Ivan was approaching as a CAT 5 and they advised everyone to leave Marco Island. So I left 3 days early. When I got back to Miami I looked at the cone and it was pointing pretty much directly to SWFL. I was relieved until days later that Ivan ends up completely missing Florida. I loss 700 bucks in hotel, now doesn't that suck, lol.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
why? lol


Because he's not really a Cat 5 in that picture....far from it. The NHC track says he was at the time but he wasn't lol.
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Quoting Bordonaro:
Following news on the Iceland Volcano, ran across this from "Google News', from Sarah Palin

SarahPalinU5A


1. The liberal media wants us to believe a volcano in Iceland is disrupting air travel. Everyone knows Iceland is too cold for volcanoes. 43 minutes ago via web


Is that a serious quote????
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
Quoting PcolaDan:


LOL Sorry Bord. Went and got something to eat. Didn't mean to leave you hanging. A guy in Iceland got them from the cam and posted them here. And now the cams are back opened for us. So much for an early night. ;>)

The "Eyjafjallajökull frá Valahnúk" web-cam has some molten magma erupting, notice in the upper right-hand corner :o).
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Quoting Patrap:
Its Impact that counts,not Cat Size Number..always


Very true, I've rambled on here the past few years about how Wilma changed my life forever, at least financially. Coming in from the west coast of Florida, I thought nothing of it. Boy was I wrong.
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Quoting Levi32:
From Wiki:



This picture always makes me laugh...
why? lol
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Yeah, it's the cat 5 LANDFALL that I'm thinking abt. I'm interested in impacts at various locations. In my mind a GoM cat 5 is going to have a pretty different profile surge-wise, if nothing else.


Well Felix, Dean, Gilbert, Anita, David, did make landfalls as Cat 5s.
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Quoting Levi32:


No she wasn't a Cat 5 at Cozumel.



I thought Gilbert did....but yeah the others no.


Actually Gilbert may have been a Cat 5 at landfall.
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Yeah, it's the cat 5 LANDFALL that I'm thinking abt. I'm interested in impacts at various locations. In my mind a GoM cat 5 is going to have a pretty different profile surge-wise, if nothing else.
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Hurricane Felix


AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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