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 NRAamy:



"I am El Nino!!! I can not die!!!!"
I am EL-NINO!!! ALL TROPICAL STORMS BOW BEFORE ME!!!lol i love that Chris Farley skit....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CycloneOz:
One of my BIG-TIME survival strategies I have developed with a Cat 5 hurricane landfall looming is to drive around the affected area and look at all the official hurricane shelters.

I would choose one that met at least some of the following conditions:

1) Closest to the ocean
2) Poorest / weakest construction
3) Most people

So even from here, I would be able to run the webcam (as long as cell service exists) and still perhaps capture the drama of what these monster storms do to communities.

One of my favorite research topics was this one: How many hurricane shelters have been destroyed during a landfalling hurricane.

To date, I cannot find a single American shelter that was destroyed.


Not every building used as a hurricane shelter will survive a CAT 5 storm. You would need to be either in a concrete parking garage or in a steel reinforced concrete structure of some type.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Except this season they are warmer which if there is a low ammount of upper level winds it could help, let's say a August hurricane in the caribbean rapidly intensify. Yes, I understand your point and I agree with it 100%.


I see your point too. It is definitely cause for concern for an early start.
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Quoting Bordonaro:
I am going the Iceland Volcano web-cam withdrawls :0(



This one is still working pretty good. By the way, your Icelandic is pretty good.

Link
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"I am El Nino!!! I can not die!!!!"
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Quoting PcolaDan:

Ok, where did you get that picture? Tell me, tell me, tell me, I am "fiending" over here!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Bordonaro:

It was a thought. But the flag-pole idea is not a real good idea.


It is without a doubt the very worst of the survival strategies...last on the list...to be considered only at times of utter desperation!
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753
One of my BIG-TIME survival strategies I have developed with a Cat 5 hurricane landfall looming is to drive around the affected area and look at all the official hurricane shelters.

I would choose one that met at least some of the following conditions:

1) Closest to the ocean
2) Poorest / weakest construction
3) Most people

So even from here, I would be able to run the webcam (as long as cell service exists) and still perhaps capture the drama of what these monster storms do to communities.

One of my favorite research topics was this one: How many hurricane shelters have been destroyed during a landfalling hurricane.

To date, I cannot find a single American shelter that was destroyed.

Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753
266. JLPR
Quoting Levi32:


Unfortunately those maps only go back to 2002. We still have the OSDPD ones though, but they're daily, not monthly averages. 1998 is the next closest SST profile analog, with the biggest difference being the state of the El Nino at this time that year.

April 17th 1998:



April 19th 2005:



April 19th 2010:




compared to 2010, 1998 had quite an El niño, so we are already transitioning to La niña, well first comes neutral
yeah sorry for the stupid question, haven't been paying attention to the weather lately :S
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Too heavy...too expensive...and definitely not tall enough to survive a storm surge.

Well inland (say the on top of the hill along Northwest Florida)...then yes.

But a big heavy thing like that would act more as an anchor than a help to me. :)

Stay loose and fast! :)

It was a thought. But the flag-pole idea is not a real good idea.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
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Hey guys have a few minutes before work so this will be my final post on the blog if you go on my blog theres a very special announcement that during the meat of hurricane season people will like its a thank you present take care and hopefully see you guys soon.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I get the first 'RIP' call of the year.

RIP El Nino!!
lol, I think this is the first RIP we can all agree on.
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Yes, you and Levi are correct.

This would not be a place to consider for a survival strategy in a Cat 5 hurricane.

Interesting in that it is an official hurricane shelter, however...I think they would not use this one in a Cat 5 due to it's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and it's construction.

However, the flagpole in Pass Christian would be a consideration in a worst case survival strategy where all other options (to include not even being there) are gone. Chicklit is right...it would be lunacy...but there it is, and if it were me in trouble with no other option, I'd use it.
I recentley read a book of interviews from survivors of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane who spoke of the number of deaths to people from simply being exposed to the hurricane. Many were decapitated or had other limbs removed from flying and rapidly floating debris, many just bled out due to a severe cut. Some estimated that the number of people who died from that type of injury to be equal to if not greater than those that died from drowning. Something to think about.
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Yes, you and Levi are correct.

This would not be a place to consider for a survival strategy in a Cat 5 hurricane.

Interesting in that it is an official hurricane shelter, however...I think they would not use this one in a Cat 5 due to it's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and it's construction.

However, the flagpole in Pass Christian would be a consideration in a worst case survival strategy where all other options (to include not even being there) are gone. Chicklit is right...it would be lunacy...but there it is, and if it were me in trouble with no other option, I'd use it.

Even if there were steel cross-members inside to buttress the walls, what good would it be against missiles flying in 155-180MPH winds.

If a large piece of plywood was pushed through the center of a trunk of mature Palm tree, what would that piece of plywood do to 18 gauge steel?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Nino 3.4 now at .6



I get the first 'RIP' call of the year.

RIP El Nino!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


Yes, but they are a component that is always there in the Caribbean no matter what. The only two components that are needed for a pre-season storm in the Caribbean are the existence of a tropical disturbance and favorable upper-level conditions. It is then, upper-level atmospheric conditions, which really determine whether we can get a pre-season storm.
Except this season they are warmer which if there is a low ammount of upper level winds it could help, let's say a August hurricane in the caribbean rapidly intensify. Yes, I understand your point and I agree with it 100%.
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Quoting Bordonaro:


You should invest and either purchase or manufacture yourself a 1/4" steel plate shelter, with Kevlar plastic windows, along with a ventilation shaft.

You can tow it to a safe location, drill fasteners into a concrete foundation, that will essentially guarantee your safety.


Too heavy...too expensive...and definitely not tall enough to survive a storm surge.

Well inland (say the on top of the hill along Northwest Florida)...then yes.

But a big heavy thing like that would act more as an anchor than a help to me. :)

Stay loose and fast! :)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753
Quoting CycloneOz:


Yes, you and Levi are correct.

This would not be a place to consider for a survival strategy in a Cat 5 hurricane.

Interesting in that it is an official hurricane shelter, however...I think they would not use this one in a Cat 5 due to it's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and it's construction.

However, the flagpole in Pass Christian would be a consideration in a worst case survival strategy where all other options (to include not even being there) are gone. Chicklit is right...it would be lunacy...but there it is, and if it were me in trouble with no other option, I'd use it.


You should invest and either purchase or manufacture yourself a 1/4" steel plate shelter, with Kevlar plastic windows, along with a ventilation shaft.

You can tow it to a safe location, drill fasteners into a concrete foundation, that will essentially guarantee your safety.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Bordonaro:
I am going the Iceland Volcano web-cam withdrawls :0(


Know what you mean. lol So are a lot of other people as per here. Maybe I'll not wait up until Iceland dawn tonight though and actually get some sleep. ;>)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
obviously, warm SST's are just a component needed for tropical formation.


Yes, but they are a component that is always there in the Caribbean no matter what. The only two components that are needed for a pre-season storm in the Caribbean are the existence of a tropical disturbance and favorable upper-level conditions. It is then, upper-level atmospheric conditions, which really determine whether we can get a pre-season storm.
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Quoting CycloneOz:
Steel buildings typically have a wind speed rating of >150 mph. Hmmm. Flying steel from the building and someone inside. This may be a good time to check ones Life insurance policy
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Quoting Bordonaro:

NO, if it was a reinforced concrete building on a concrete foundation, that would be perfect.

That building will be shredded to pieces in 155+MPH winds.


Yes, you and Levi are correct.

This would not be a place to consider for a survival strategy in a Cat 5 hurricane.

Interesting in that it is an official hurricane shelter, however...I think they would not use this one in a Cat 5 due to it's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and it's construction.

However, the flagpole in Pass Christian would be a consideration in a worst case survival strategy where all other options (to include not even being there) are gone. Chicklit is right...it would be lunacy...but there it is, and if it were me in trouble with no other option, I'd use it.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753
Quoting Levi32:


I know, we were talking today about how conditions may be favorable in early May, but that's obviously not guaranteed and I just want to point out that it's not the SSTs that really determine early-season development.
obviously, warm SST's are just a component needed for tropical formation.
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I am going the Iceland Volcano web-cam withdrawls :0(
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
StormW stated a couple of days ago that upper level winds should be low.


I know, we were talking today about how conditions may be favorable in early May, but that's obviously not guaranteed and I just want to point out that it's not the SSTs that really determine early-season development.
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on another note this is the second time in 24 hours that i have seen someone personally attack someone else.

what is the point really? does it make you feel better?
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Quoting Chicklit:
That's not strategy. It's lunacy.


i don't care what ya call it if yer gonna strap yerself to a flagpole in a cat five iam gonna watch and i would pay too my only advice make sure ya got a red flashin beacon on top of yer head so it will be easy to see amongst all the other crap that will be floating in the sea water
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54398
Quoting Levi32:


Let's just keep in mind though that warm SSTs in the Caribbean don't by themselves determine when the first TD of the year will form. The Caribbean is warm enough to support hurricanes year-round. A warmer-than-normal Caribbean does make it easier for a potential disturbance to develop in May, but it's the upper-level atmospheric conditions that really determine when the first storm of the year can try to form.
StormW stated a couple of days ago that upper level winds should be low.
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Quoting CycloneOz:

NO, if it was a reinforced concrete building on a concrete foundation, that would be perfect.

That building will be shredded to pieces in 155+MPH winds.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting CycloneOz:


Not with the active power lines right there....

Idk about the building surviving but a person inside....nope.
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242. xcool
takes eggs and ham too Caribbean cooking
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Caribbean warming rapidly. Expect the season's first TD (probably in early/mid May) to develop there.


Let's just keep in mind though that warm SSTs in the Caribbean don't by themselves determine when the first TD of the year will form. The Caribbean is warm enough to support hurricanes year-round. A warmer-than-normal Caribbean does make it easier for a potential disturbance to develop in May, but it's the upper-level atmospheric conditions that really determine when the first storm of the year can try to form.
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Quoting kimoskee:


Okay... officially giving up trying to post link. SORRY!!!!


it's the operating system i believe. i can not post links in safari but i can in firefox. i don;t know what it would be for pc. hope it helps.

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Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753
Quoting xcool:







Caribbean warming rapidly. Expect the season's first TD (probably in early/mid May) to develop there.
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236. xcool







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Quoting PcolaDan:


This time it's really down evidently. Should have shown my source. Sorry about that. (you need to translate it though)

edit: It's in Icelandic not Norwegian.


Here is the translation:

Web server with Webcams on Eyjafell collapse due to stress
Posted on 21:10, April 19th, 2010 by jonfr

It's been happening increasingly now the last day to a web server hosting Webcams pointing to Eyjafjallaj%uFFFDkull collapse busy these days due to pressure from abroad. Because news of the eruption of the foreign interest has increased enormously, and people turned to the internet to see what is going on. Also to obtain information about Eyjafjallaj%uFFFDkull.

People find the course Webcams available here on the country and refer to Eyjafell. However, these websites are poorly equipped to deal with the stress attached to this interest, and then one applies whether the case of Vodafone, miles or other private companies here in Iceland. All of these hosting service have so far given the stress involved because of this interest.

This problem is very bad, because it is a lot of people out in the world that wants to monitor the eruption without having to come to Iceland. Reasons for this may be as many people a lot. It is namely so that it does not have any money and time to come to Iceland to watch the eruption .
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Bordonaro:

The web-cams have had a "nervous breakdown". No, not really, access to people outside of Iceland has been cut off, so the local citizens can access important info. O ne of the web-cams had that message. Now all we get is an "error message"!!

We are "left out in the cold", sniff, sniff!


This time it's really down evidently. Should have shown my source. Sorry about that. (you need to translate it though)

edit: It's in Icelandic not Norwegian.
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Kind of a mixed bag of weather coming up for the next week in our neck of the woods:

Local Text Forecast for
Lake Worth, FL (33461)

Apr 19 Tonight
Isolated thunderstorms this evening. Skies will become partly cloudy after midnight. Low 63F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

Apr 20 Tomorrow
Sun and clouds mixed with a slight chance of thunderstorms during the afternoon. High 77F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

Apr 20 Tomorrow night
Isolated thunderstorms in the evening. Cloudy skies overnight. Low 68F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Apr 21 Wednesday

A few thunderstorms possible. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the mid 60s.

Apr 22 Thursday
Abundant sunshine. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 23 Friday
Plenty of sun. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 24 Saturday
Mainly sunny. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 25 Sunday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 26 Monday
Scattered thunderstorms possible. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 27 Tuesday
Scattered thunderstorms. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.

Apr 28 Wednesday
Scattered thunderstorms possible. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 70s.
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North_Pacific_Overview.DAY.jpg



NAM 300 mb Loop

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Quoting PcolaDan:
Web server with Webcams on Eyjafell collapse due to stress

The web-cams have had a "nervous breakdown". No, not really, access to people outside of Iceland has been cut off, so the local citizens can access important info.

One of the web-cams had that message. Now all we get is an "error message"!!

We are "left out in the cold", sniff, sniff!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
www.canefever.com Tropical Links Dujour'
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Web server with Webcams on Eyjafell collapse due to stress
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Nino 3.4 now at .6



El Nino almost DEAD!!!
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Little "E", the Iceland Volcano has shown a larger eruption over the last few hrs, after taking a "brief break".

The Iceland Met Centre said the ash plume is at 20,000 ft just south of Iceland, link to that article:
Link
This ash cloud is moving towards the UK. Recent article below:
Link
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785


Quoting Chicklit:
That's not strategy. It's lunacy.


I'll try to find an even more bizarre strategy for you. Give me a few minutes... :)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 3753

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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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