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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good late afternoon all
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53841
Quoting indianrivguy: kinna looks like the monster in Forbidden Planet

It looks like a balrog! Golden Geek Award to those who know what I mean.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Something odd is going on, all of the best bloggers are on:

*Drakoen
*Levi32
*StormW
*Patrap
*PcolaDan

Sorry to anyone I may of forgotten. All bloggers are excellent except for the doomcasters, those people are just wierd, lol.

It's a meeting of the minds!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Something odd is going on, all of the best bloggers are on:

*Drakoen
*Levi32
*StormW
*Patrap
*PcolaDan

Sorry to anyone I may of forgotten. All bloggers are excellent except for the doomcasters, those people are just wierd, lol.
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Quoting StormW:


If it pans out, guess I'll be going to work early this season!
GFS has been consistent so chances are it'll pan out. But look on the bright side, higher pay?
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Quoting Drakoen:
The warm up in the GOM and off the southeastern seaboard will continue be low because of the anomalously faster surface easterlies 4-6m/s above average.


Figure 1. AOML Sea Surface Temperatures April 15, 2010



Figure 2. Surface Winds Speeds (top) and Surface Wind Speed Anomalies (bottom)


The temperature forecast for the next 2 weeks doesn't look great for the GOM SSTs either, but part of these cold anomalies are due to SSTs being colder-than-normal in the first place, moderating air temps to some degree.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
from The Guardian



* News
* Education
* Schools

Schools in chaos after teachers and pupils stranded

Schools across the country closed or suspended classes today as hundreds of teachers were stuck abroad because of disruption to flights

* Digg it
* Buzz up
* Share on facebook
* Tweet this

* Jessica Shepherd, Sarah Boseley, and Richard Wray
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 19 April 2010 21.32 BST
* Article history

The runway at Edinburgh airport where flights are cancelled for a fifth day

The runway at Edinburgh airport where flights are cancelled for a fifth day. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Schools across the country suspended classes and some closed today as hundreds of teachers remained stranded abroad because of the disruption to flights.

Protocol Education, an agency that provides schools with supply teachers, said it had been particularly busy dispatching extra teachers to schools in Manchester, Leeds, Essex and Bristol and had received four times the usual number of calls to its south London office.

At least two schools, in Gloucestershire and Derbyshire, were forced to stay shut on the first day of the summer term because of serious teacher shortages.

Three others – comprehensives in Birmingham and London – closed to 11- and 12-year-olds so that staff could concentrate on teenagers preparing for GCSE and A-level exams next month.

Scores of schools have resigned themselves to spending thousands of pounds on supply teachers until flights start getting through and the backlog is cleared.

Most schools were on their Easter break at the time of the eruption and many teachers were on holiday abroad, while others were leading school trips and have been stranded along with their pupils.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
The warm up in the GOM and off the southeastern seaboard will continue to be low because of the anomalously faster surface easterlies 4-6m/s above average.


Figure 1. AOML Sea Surface Temperatures April 15, 2010




Figure 2. Surface Winds Speeds (top) and Surface Wind Speed Anomalies (bottom)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30491
The GFS ensembles have been showing it too. The initial conditions (left) show all the troughing that is currently in the area, but the 14-day forecast (right) shows extensive upper ridging building over the Caribbean, forcing the subtropical jet to the north. It's a trend to keep an eye on.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting CycloneUK:


How about this one?



kinna looks like the monster in Forbidden Planet
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Interesting trends shaping up on the GFS for the start of May. The model is showing favorable areas of upward motion over Central America during the first week of May, and the last 6 or so operational runs have been forming a tropical cyclone in either the eastern Pacific or western Caribbean in 13-16 days, which is the same time period around the beginning of May. An upper-level ridge is forecast to be over that area at the time, which would be a favorable environment for convection and perhaps early-season formation in the eastern Pacific. Their season starts on May 15th. Just signs that the tropical season is approaching for both basins.

This pattern on the GFS would likely produce a negative SOI burst as well over the next couple weeks, which is expected in response to the huge positive burst we are currently experiencing.



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting CycloneUK:


How about this one?


AMAZING!!! I like living on planet earth.
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Quoting Drakoen:
SST forecast:



Interesting westward bulge in the Loop Current north of the Yucatan in that forecast.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Update on the Iceland Volcano from the Iceland Met Office:
Link
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting belizeit:
Could any one tell me is the Azores high late in building this year or why don't we have or usual trade winds
I believe it is building weaker than last year but I'm not sure that is what is causing it.
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Quoting belizeit:
Could any one tell me is the Azores high late in building this year or why don't we have or usual trade winds


We've had a negative NAO for most of the winter, which results in a weaker Azores High. A weaker Azores High results in a weaker pressure gradient which results in slower trade wind speeds over the tropics. The Azores High has been weak and pushed south of where it usually is all winter long, and that is bad news regarding SSTs.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
SST forecast:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30491
Quoting StormW:


You're just full of great news! But, we kinda expected it!


Yup, unfortunately...
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Could any one tell me is the Azores high late in building this year or why don't we have or usual trade winds
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Anomalous 200mb easterlies are also developing over the tropical Atlantic, resulting in well-below normal wind shear for this time of year.



Wind shear anomalies:



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Levi32:
Wow check out the 850mb wind anomalies for the past 10 days. You can see the westerly anomalies associated with the Kelvin Wave moving through the eastern Pacific, as well as the strong westerly anomalies (weak trade winds) redeveloping in the tropical Atlantic, which will allow SSTs to remain quite warm in the entire MDR.


Yeah...I saw that!
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Wow check out the 850mb wind anomalies for the past 10 days. You can see the westerly anomalies associated with the Kelvin Wave moving through the eastern Pacific, as well as the strong westerly anomalies (weak trade winds) redeveloping in the tropical Atlantic, which will allow SSTs to remain quite warm in the entire MDR.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647


How about this one?
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Quoting Levi32:


What do you mean Oz? And I think you quoted the wrong post of mine lol, unless I'm misunderstanding you.


Quoted wrong post. I meant to quote your response to the 13-16 day GFS.
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The Earth is absolutely the coolest place in the galaxy, bar none.

Not only does our planet come complete with action like this, but we're around with the technology to record it so that it can be viewed world-wide.

AWESOME! Pulitzer Prize Nominee for sure!
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Some absoulutely spiffing photos of the volcano here:

Link

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Quoting CycloneOz:


I think an equally fascinating thing about these runs 13-16 days out is that the there may be a shift in the wind patterns near the ITCZ.



What do you mean Oz? And I think you quoted the wrong post of mine lol, unless I'm misunderstanding you.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Looks like according to the gfs we are going to be in the oven in a couple of days here in Belize the forecast temps go up every day .
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Quoting Patrap:
Next Kelvin wave looks to be weaker.
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Quoting Levi32:


It's hard to say when, but it should be soon, as the SOI doesn't usually go up and then just stay there without reacting downward again. The SOI likes to do its work in a series of ups and downs. However, the trend is now clearly up, and the next SOI negative burst will not be as negative as the last one, which means the next Kelvin wave will be weaker. This last Kelvin wave was likely the last one that will really stall the El Nino's demise. Nino 3.4 is steadily falling now. It was Nino 1, 2, and 3 that warmed a bit with this last wave, but they will begin to cool again as well once the last of the warm subsurface water surfaces and cooler water starts to upwell from below. This may take a bit more time though. The first neutral or cool anomalies may show up in Nino 3.4 first.


I think an equally fascinating thing about these runs 13-16 days out is that the there may be a shift in the wind patterns near the ITCZ.

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
ROFLMAO.Good job!


Oh man I want that...lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Patrap:
North_Pacific_Overview.DAY.jpg



I like that they have an Alaskan sector now after they updated their site. And as that image shows I'm finally in the sunshine again! After 4 days of slushy rain and snow the front has finally dissipated enough that the mountains are downsloping us into clear skies :)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Patrap:
Michael Jackson Overview
ROFLMAO.
Quoting Levi32:


Madden-Julian Oscillation.
Good job!
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
135. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Levi32:


They fail to mention that CO2 is our friend here.....as melting glaciers make the volcanoes less destructive, even if they do erupt more. That point about more eruptions is debatable too, like the story they came up with about melting ice wakening the Iceland volcanoes. A complete melting of the ice on Iceland, which is at maximum 500 meters thick, would only change the melting point of rock (when it changes to magma) by 0.5C.....which corresponds to a change in depth of about 20 meters based on the earth's normal geothermal gradient. To say that a change this small could stimulate excess volcanic activity is not that credible. And again, the net result of ice melting is it makes the volcanoes less destructive (i.e. not as dangerous to humans).

Besides, who says volcanoes always cause warming? The largest eruptions, which I'm sure they say cause the most warming, actually cause cooling by warming the stratosphere... (we're still talking about volcanoes in glaciated regions, not the tropics).


I don't think Harvard just came up with a story about Iceland to make a point. It's not the change in Temperature it's the sudden unburdening of weight from the land as the heavy ice melts, the release of pressure from the ice holding it down. GRACE has been documenting some huge surface shifts lately as the melt continues. I read part of the full length interesting stuff. Cooling from volcanoes are usually a few year event but the CO2 can cause further warming down the road, hence the positive feedback. Added sea rise slumbering more underwater volcanoes does help reduce ocean warming & added CO2 but I think another point was ones in the Arctic would calm after the melt was done & stabilized, eventually helping to swing back toward cool again.

On the whole ENSO melt thought.. That El Nino the causer of cloud seeding really helped put a bigger than lately sheet of really thin ice up there, if ENSO dives to La Nina, the clouds will disappear & with the record heat in the air from the dying El Nino we should set an impressive sea ice melt record.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 37843
Mick Jagger's Overbite..?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I will give a cookie to the first person who can tell me what MJO stands for, and please don't search it up. And spreaking of MJO:



Madden-Julian Oscillation.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Michael Jackson Overview
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North_Pacific_Overview.DAY.jpg

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I will give a cookie to the first person who can tell me what MJO stands for, and please don't search it up.
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African Coast looking toasty.

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NAM 300 mb Loop

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i think that i've on the blog long enough, i actually understood what skypony posted.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


This graphic is a few days old but shows what both of you are talking about those cool waters how they are expanding. Do we know when and how strong the next kevin wave will move from west to east?



It's hard to say when, but it should be soon, as the SOI doesn't usually go up and then just stay there without reacting downward again. The SOI likes to do its work in a series of ups and downs. However, the trend is now clearly up, and the next SOI negative burst will not be as negative as the last one, which means the next Kelvin wave will be weaker. This last Kelvin wave was likely the last one that will really stall the El Nino's demise. Nino 3.4 is steadily falling now. It was Nino 1, 2, and 3 that warmed a bit with this last wave, but they will begin to cool again as well once the last of the warm subsurface water surfaces and cooler water starts to upwell from below. This may take a bit more time though. The first neutral or cool anomalies may show up in Nino 3.4 first.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647

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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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