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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424. MrstormX
1:44 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Other nearby volcanoes other then Katla and Eyjafjallajökull include:

Vestmannaeyjar; Last eruption 1973

Tindfjallajökull; Last eruption unknown

Torfajökull; last eruption 1477

Hekla; last eruption 2000

Snaefellsjökull; last eruption 200 A.D.

Katla is probably the number one risk right now, but don't rule Vestmannaeyjar out either.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
423. Chicklit
1:43 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
The crew of space shuttle Discovery went to sleep at 3:21 p.m. EDT. Crew wakeup is at 11:21 p.m. Weather permitting, Discovery is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center's shuttle landing facility Tuesday at 7:34 a.m., 40 minutes after sunrise. The second landing opportunity at Kennedy is at 9:08 a.m.


Link
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
422. WaterWitch11
1:42 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
sorry not in firefox for direct link:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/20/2877497.htm

eq australia
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
421. GeoffreyWPB
1:40 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting Snowlover123:
Figure 1 almost looks surreal... wow... must be Global Warming that caused this, like everything else it causes...


I agree, GW is a fraud. But boy, the climate is certainly changing around the world.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11432
420. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:40 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
(Eyjafjoll)

Iceland

63.63 N, 19.62 W
summit elevation 1666 m
stratovolcano

Eyjafjallajokull volcano is located in southern Iceland under Eyjafjallajkull icecap. The southern end of the volcano was once part of the Atlantic coastline. The sea level has retreated some 5 km, leaving behind sheer cliffs with and many waterfalls such as Skgafoss.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano contains a 2.5 km wide caldera.

Eyjafjll has been much less active than neighboring volcanoes. Since 1600's there have only been three eruptions at Eyjafjoll, while nearby Katla had 20 eruptions.

The 2010 eruption site has been named Fimmvruhls.

2010 Eruption
An earthquake swarm began under Eyjafjoll volcano in January 2010. There was a 40 mm inflation of the volcano. At the beginning of March 2010 over 3000 earthquakes were measured in a 24 hour period, with a maximum at magnitude 3.1.
An eruption began near the Eyjafjallajkull glacier on 21st March 2010. Locals reported lava fountaining and a lava flow from the glacier. Residents were evacuated. The eruption was limited to an area with little ice, so the threat of a flood was reduced.

17th April Update
A significant eruption was continuing at Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. Ash emissions were reaching 28,000 ft. On 16th April there was a glacial outburst, and water level in Markarfljt rose by 50 centimeters at 6pm. There was another glacial outburst earlier in the day at Ggjkull glacial tongue. More glacial bursts are expected as the eruption continues.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54858
419. Bordonaro
1:39 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting Snowlover123:
Just 1 question: Have there been any other volcanic eruptions as severe as this one?

The current eruption in Iceland is relatively minor. What is making this a problem is the NW winds in the Jet are driving the ash right into NW Europe. Normally the Northern Jet blows strong Westerly winds, blame it on an area of High pressure parked off the NW Atlantic.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
418. PcolaDan
1:39 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting WaterWitch11:


it was added info.
i just think it strange how the one calmed down and Katla had an increase in those graphs. I remember watching the ones in alaska all the time and you would see major spikes and nothing ever came of it.


LOL I knew it was just added. Just picking on you. There is one theory I read recently that thinks it may be magma flowing through chambers between the volcanoes. The thought being that a fissure has opened and magma is moving towards Katla. Don't remember where I read that though nor how reliable the information is.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
417. Snowlover123
1:37 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
tropicsweatherpr sez...
"Is there anything to see here with this little convection area at 7N-35W? Is north of the ITCZ.

Link"

Oh, boy. I am excited for hurricane season to start too, (so intense :) ) but it's only April! Of course everything is going to fizzle out. We have such prevailing westerlies right now!
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
416. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:37 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting all4hurricanes:
Whats the Katla?


Katla Volcano is located in southern Iceland under Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It is considered the most dangerous volcano in Iceland.

The highest points of the ice cap lie on the caldera rim and include Goðabunga, Háabunga, Austmannsbunga, Enta, Entukollar.

Eruptions at Katla volcano are phreatomagmatic, and produce high eruption columns and catastrophic meltwater floods. Historically large eruptions have occurred at regular intervals about every 50 years.

Holocene eruptions at Katla volcano have been characterised by three types.
1) Basaltic explosive eruptions inside the caldera have occurred twice per century.
2) Silicic explosive eruptions in or near the caldera occur less frequently.
3) Large effusive basaltic fissure eruptions, producing volumes of 10 cubic km have occurred on two occasions during the Holocene.

Earthquakes at Katla Volcano
Katla has been seismically active for at least the past forty years, with two distinct areas predominating - Gooabunga rise in the west, and within Katla caldera in the centre. Earthquakes are more common during the autumn than during spring. There is almost no seismicity at the beginning of the year, and the earthquakes start to
occur in late summer. Seismicity indicates an intruding hot and acidic cryptodome, with a summit at a depth of 1.5 km.


1999 Eruption
In 1999 there was a glacial outburst at Katla volcano, possibly caused by a small eruption under the ice. The water flowed into Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi river. The source of the melting was a depression formed in the glacier surface. The flood was preceded by a burst of seismic tremor. Subglacial geothermal activity increased in the following weeks. Geothermal activity at Katla increased since 1999.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54858
415. GeoffreyWPB
1:37 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting Chicklit:
Impress people and practice this:

Eyjafjallajökull is pronounced similar to "EYE-a-fyat-la-yu-goot.


Do, a dear, a female dear
Ra, drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Fa, a long, long way to run,
So, a needle pulling thread,
La, a note to follow so
Te, a drink with jam and bread,
That leads us back to do
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11432
414. Snowlover123
1:36 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Just 1 question: Have there been any other volcanic eruptions as severe as this one?
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
413. Snowlover123
1:35 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Figure 1 almost looks surreal... wow... must be Global Warming that caused this, like everything else it causes...
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
412. MrstormX
1:33 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
The Earthquake, that wouldn't happen to be related to the South Sandwich Island Volcanoes?
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
411. Chicklit
1:33 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Impress people and practice this:

Eyjafjallaj%uFFFDl is pronounced similar to "EYE-a-fyat-la-yu-goot.

Here's another nice piece of meterological trivia:
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, also known as MODIS, is an instrument that flies aboard both NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. MODIS captures daily visible and infrared earth imagery and has provided daily images of the volcanic plume. NASA%u2019s MODIS instrument and the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, both of which fly on Aqua, contain sulfur dioxide (SO2) absorption channels to enhance volcanic ash detection. These applications have significantly improved upon existing satellite-based multi-spectral techniques in identifying and tracking ash clouds and estimating their height.

Here's the link:

redorbit
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
410. Bordonaro
1:33 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting all4hurricanes:
Whats the Katla?

Katla is the nearby volcano to "E" that's erupting now. When "E" has erupted in the past 3 eruptions, Katla went off next!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
409. WaterWitch11
1:32 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting all4hurricanes:
Whats the Katla?


a volcano in iceland
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
408. WaterWitch11
1:25 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting PcolaDan:


You're right, I guess I should have said, no signs of an eruption at this time. I believe they are still not sure what all the web recorder info means. And I'm guessing the Western Australia info was to throw me off. LOL


it was added info.
i just think it strange how the one calmed down and Katla had an increase in those graphs. I remember watching the ones in alaska all the time and you would see major spikes and nothing ever came of it.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
407. all4hurricanes
1:23 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Whats the Katla?
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2374
406. Bordonaro
1:18 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting PcolaDan:


You're right, I guess I should have said, no signs of an eruption at this time. They are still not sure what all the web recorder info means. And I'm guessing the Western Australia info was to throw me off. LOL

Wow, a 5.2Mw quake about 400 miles from a plate boundary??

Katla, in my opinion, will be next on the hit parade, especially if seismic activity is increasing under her!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
405. PcolaDan
1:16 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting WaterWitch11:


not true, the web recorder shows an increase since the one who can't be named decreased.

MAP 5.2 2010/04/20 00:17:08 -30.530 121.653 10.0 WESTERN AUSTRALIA


You're right, I guess I should have said, no signs of an eruption at this time. I believe they are still not sure what all the web recorder info means. And I'm guessing the Western Australia info was to throw me off. LOL
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
404. MrstormX
1:11 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Is there anything to see here with this little convection area at 8N-35W. Is north of the ITCZ.

Link


In that region this time of year, it will probably just fizzle.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
403. MrstormX
1:10 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Documentary on the Oklahoma City bombing now on MSBC. 15 Years ago today.


Yah also the featured on Wikipedia's front page.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
402. Tropicsweatherpr
1:09 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Is there anything to see here with this little convection area at 7N-35W? Is north of the ITCZ.

Link
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14568
401. WaterWitch11
1:08 AM GMT on April 20, 2010
Quoting PcolaDan:


Katla is still quiet.


not true, the web recorder shows an increase since the one who can't be named decreased.

MAP 5.2 2010/04/20 00:17:08 -30.530 121.653 10.0 WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
Documentary on the Oklahoma City bombing now on MSBC. 15 Years ago today.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11432
Okay its actually the leeward islands, some idiot purposely added false info. I am getting them blocked on Wikipedia now. That is unacceptable, and happend just today so thank god for you guys on this blog so we could catch the vandal!
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Thats a serious error, but thankfully its a wiki so anybody who wants to make the correction should.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
yup...northward from the Bahamas ain't toward Hispanola...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting BahaHurican:
Back for a minute - have to wait on someone...

Anybody notice anything.... odd.... about this Wiki entry?

As it moved west-northwestward on the 27th and 28th, it rapidly intensified to a 150 mph (240 km/h) major hurricane. It weakened slightly to a 140 mph (225 km/h) hurricane, but restrengthened by the time David ravaged the tiny Leeward Island of Dominica on the 29th.[1]

David continued west-northwest through the Bahamas where it caused heavy damage, and became a Category 5 hurricane in the northeast Caribbean Sea, reaching peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and minimum central pressure of 924 mbar (hPa) on August 30. An upper-level trough pulled David northward into Hispaniola as a Category 5 hurricane on the 31st. The eye passed almost directly over Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic with over a million people. The storm crossed over the island and emerged as a weak hurricane after drenching the islands.[1]





How did it go through the Bahamas then back to the DR? It never looped.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26889
Quoting PcolaDan:


Katla is still quiet.



for now but not for long
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Quoting Tazmanian:
so what is going on at Katla volcano


Katla is still quiet.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
so what is going on at Katla volcano
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389 the last word shouldn't be plural
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
Quoting Tazmanian:



OK I WAS THIS MAKEING SURE

lol
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
NO NO NO! I remember that kid that kept changing his account, and I actually spell correctly, lol



OK I WAS THIS MAKEING SURE

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Back for a minute - have to wait on someone...

Anybody notice anything.... odd.... about this Wiki entry?

As it moved west-northwestward on the 27th and 28th, it rapidly intensified to a 150 mph (240 km/h) major hurricane. It weakened slightly to a 140 mph (225 km/h) hurricane, but restrengthened by the time David ravaged the tiny Leeward Island of Dominica on the 29th.[1]

David continued west-northwest through the Bahamas where it caused heavy damage, and became a Category 5 hurricane in the northeast Caribbean Sea, reaching peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and minimum central pressure of 924 mbar (hPa) on August 30. An upper-level trough pulled David northward into Hispaniola as a Category 5 hurricane on the 31st. The eye passed almost directly over Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic with over a million people. The storm crossed over the island and emerged as a weak hurricane after drenching the islands.[1]


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Quoting Tazmanian:



ARE YOU JFV????
NO NO NO! I remember that kid that kept changing his account, and I actually spell correctly, lol
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
yes sir.



ARE YOU JFV????
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


1463 is the number of Dr. Masters last blog. If you look in your address bar, you can see this blog is 1464.


Aha!!! But I wonder why they got that now?
edit: Are you sure I thought that was the comment number, which I notice is now gone from the last blog.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting PcolaDan:
Oooookayyyyy!!! So who is entry 1463????

When I tried to go to http://www.mulakot.net/myndavelar.html I got

mulakot.net skilar villum. Tæknimönnum 1984 ehf hefur verið gert viðvart! Referred by http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1463

translation:

mulakot.net returns errors. Technicians 1984 Ltd. has been notified! Referred by http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1463


1463 is the number of Dr. Masters last blog. If you look in your address bar, you can see this blog is 1464.
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This is so friggin cool thanks to whoever posted it! I can't stop watching. And look how the EPAC temps near the equator are supposed to cool, that's just cool. Pun intended lol.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oooookayyyyy!!! So who is entry 1463????

When I tried to go to http://www.mulakot.net/myndavelar.html I got

mulakot.net skilar villum. Tæknimönnum 1984 ehf hefur verið gert viðvart! Referred by http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1463

translation:

mulakot.net returns errors. Technicians 1984 Ltd. has been notified! Referred by http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1463
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


if it continues for the next four months or more

next winter in the northern hemisphere is gonna be a wee bit colder and snowier than normal

We should be either in a "neutral" or a moderate La Nina for winter 2010-11.

Need to wait and see, this volcano, while wreaking havoc over Europe and parts of Asia, has not really emitted enough ash/sulfur dioxide yet to cool that atmosphere.

But, if Katla erupts, that may change.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
I gots to go... BBL if time permits.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
lol, don't take it so hard, we just messing around. Here in Miami I got no rain today.
I'm too sleepy to take anything hard - too easy to take it easy.... we got a few sprinkles this p.m., but mostly just overcast skies all day. At least it's not the gawdawful 50s and 60s anymore.... (I'll prolly be up in here in July complaining about a/c bills... lol)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Well then let's talk about the man who got his name from scrabble letters, Obama!


if you stop getting upset at everyone i'll give you bite!
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
Quoting winter123:
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!


if it continues for the next four months or more

next winter in the northern hemisphere is gonna be a wee bit colder and snowier than normal
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54858
Quoting Patrap:
Some where in Florida a Tea Kettle is Burling over..

LoL


Oh my, a "Tempest in a Teapot"!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting Patrap:
Some where in Florida a Tea Kettle is Burling over..

LoL

;o)
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Whatever. Rather talk about food than politics, though. Or maybe even [gasp] weather!

Speaking of wx, did u guys get any more rain today?
lol, don't take it so hard, we just messing around. Here in Miami I got no rain today.
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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?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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About

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