J3.2 Automated Utilization of Weather Satellites for Global Mitigation of Aviation Related Volcanic Hazards

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 1:45 PM
Room 348/349 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Michael J. Pavolonis, NOAA/NESDIS, Madison, WI; and J. Sieglaff and J. L. Cintineo

Volcanic ash clouds are a major aviation hazard that can significantly damage aircraft and, in the worst case, cause inflight engine failure. The economic loss associated with volcanic ash related disruptions to air travel is also significant. Billions of dollars alone were lost during a 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano. Meteorological satellites are the primary measurement used by Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC's) to operationally track volcanic ash clouds. In recognition of the importance of satellites in mitigating volcanic ash hazards, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, has developed an automated system for detecting and characterizing volcanic ash clouds in near real-time using a constellation of weather satellites that collectively provide frequent global coverage. The NOAA Volcanic Cloud Analysis Toolkit (VOLCAT) utilizes sophisticated scientific algorithms and satellite data to: 1). Identify volcanoes that are in a state of unrest prior to an explosive eruption, 2). Detect explosive volcanic eruptions in a timely manner and provide alerts to VAAC's and volcano observatories, 3). Track volcanic ash clouds, 4). Extract information on volcanic ash cloud height and amount, and 5). Generate the parameters needed to initialize volcanic ash dispersion and transport models. Weather satellites already provide terabytes of data each day, with the data volume expected to increase significantly by 2020. Thus, automated methods, such as those within VOLCAT, are a critical supplement to traditional manual satellite analysis utilized by VAAC's. This paper will highlight how NOAA's VOLCAT system is converting “big data” to actionable environmental intelligence for mitigating aviation related volcanic hazards on a global scale.
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