7.4 HIGHLIGHT: Harmonized Volcanic Ash Support to Global Aviation

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 9:15 AM
Room 17A (Austin Convention Center)
Cecilia Miner, Unaffiliated, Woodbridge, VA; and J. M. Osiensky and G. Swanson

Volcanic ash plumes and drifting ash clouds pose a risk to flight operations around the world. Unlike synoptic-scale weather, volcanic ash from a single eruption may circle the globe, necessitating close collaboration among countries providing volcanic ash information for aviation. The NOAA/National Weather Service works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop and implement aviation weather services in accordance with international and domestic standards. International harmonization of products and services provides the global aviation community with a common set of information on weather and volcanic hazards affecting flight.

The international aviation industry receives information on location and movement of clouds of volcanic ash from Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC) around the world. The US VAACs in Anchorage, Alaska, and Washington, DC, work in concert with seven other VAACs: London, Montreal, Toulouse, Tokyo, Darwin, Wellington, and Buenos Aires. In addition to the NWS, the US VAACs are supported by NOAA/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and by NOAA/Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research's Air Resources Laboratory and Earth System Research Laboratory.

Collaboration among VAACs has been problematic in the past, most notably during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, which produced an estimated $2 billion impact internationally. The worldwide volcanic ash community responded by forming a highly productive working group led by the NWS, UKMET and the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC). The outcome of this working group was instituting a collaborative analysis and forecast process among the NWS, UKMET, and MSC and an agreed-to list of priorities for improving the observations and models required to analyze and predict volcanic ash clouds. These efforts have resulted in better collaborative forecasts and related decision making as was apparent in the services provided during the 2011 Grimsvötn Volcano eruption. In the most recent endeavors, the world scientific and operational communities have collaborated on the following: improvements in observation and forecast capabilities for volcanic ash; closer coordination among VAACs, facilitated by creation of a set of best practices; and aggressive effort to develop international volcanic ash standards for aviation through the International Civil Aviation Organization in concert with the World Meteorological Organization.

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