J7.2 Evaluating User Needs for the Provision of Global Volcanic Hazard Information (Including SO2, and Other Volcanic Gases)

Monday, 23 January 2017: 4:15 PM
611 (Washington State Convention Center )
Steven Albersheim, FAA, Washington, DC; and L. Burch, T. J. Helms Jr., and T. P. Kiley Jr.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Meteorological Panel (MET-P) was established to refine concepts and develop ICAO provisions for new and existing aeronautical meteorological (MET) services, consistent with operational improvements (OIs) envisioned by the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP).  The scope of the MET-P’s work addresses the provision of MET (and MET-driven) informational elements, within the context of international air navigation.  A few examples of that work include defining Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for:
  • provision of space weather information;
  • provision of volcanic hazard information;
  • provision of information relating to the release of radioactive material; and
  • harmonization of global- and regional-scale aviation MET information.

One important task recently delegated to the MET-P includes an assessment of how to provide global information for sulphur dioxide (SO2) and other hazardous volcanic gases in the atmosphere, which may pose a risk to aviation.  This task builds upon prior work by the Volcanic Ash Scientific Advisory Group (VASAG), established through a working arrangement between the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG).

The MET-P’s work will initially focus solely on SO2. The task requires the incorporation of several disciplines including:  meteorology, geological sciences, engineering, air traffic management, airline operations and medicine/human health.

SO2is a byproduct of volcanic eruption, and is generally transported aloft by large-scale meteorological patterns.  The gas is highly corrosive to aircraft and aviation equipment, and can pose significant health risk to aircraft occupants.

SO2 can sometimes be associated and co-located with volcanic ash, but the detection and observation of SO2 differs from volcanic ash in two ways:  1) SO2 cannot be seen by the human eye, making avoidance by the pilot nearly impossible, and 2) SOis a gas, and can remain aloft long after volcanic ash has precipitated from the atmosphere.

The MET-P’s work on SO2 is expected to culminate in the development of SARPs for inclusion in ICAO Annex 3, Meteorological Service for International Air Navigation, to include, inter alia:

  • description, details and examples of services (e.g., forecasts) to be provided; and
  • definition of the entity or organization providing the services.

It is expected that these SARPs will be included in Annex 3, for the amendment applicable in November 2018.

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