The VAACs must coordinate during large, extensive eruptions where volcanic ash may travel for hundreds and even thousands of miles from its source. When volcanic ash plumes are forecast to cross VAAC boundaries, procedures are set in place to coordinate and handoff the plume from one VAAC area to another.
State meteorological agencies support the VAACs therefore nine offices are using hardware and software specific to their operation. This makes it very difficult to coordinate and share information easily.
A development effort is being led by the U.S. National Weather Service Alaska Region to create a tool which allows offices to collaborate easily using a common platform. This volcanic ash collaboration tool is being developed in conjunction with StormCenter Inc. and uses Google Earth (GE) as the common platform. An interface which works directly with GE allows for interactive collaboration, sharing of datasets and drawing/annotation. Several groups have participated in test sessions including Anchorage, Washington, and Montreal VAACs, NCEP Aviation Weather Center and NOAA Air Resources Laboratory.
A tool such as this would enable the VAACs to collaborate very easily during a volcanic ash event which spans two or more VAAC areas. The result would be a harmonized, seamless product across VAAC boundaries to best serve the airlines and other customers.