Development and testing of the Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool (VACT)
An initial build of the system was installed in 2003 at the Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), and Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center - Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU). Based on user feedback from the initial delivery, numerous enhancements to the system have occurred such as expanded satellite image displays, custom geographic sector displays, and interactive map backgrounds. Further enhancements include volcanic ash dispersion model output displays and advisory preparation tools. By allowing the VAAC, AVO, and CWSU to simultaneously view identical displays and collaborate in real time, the VACT will help those organizations create fully consistent advisories and forecasts of airborne volcanic ash transport and dispersion.
A quasi-operational test and evaluation of the VACT was performed in Alaska during May, 2005. Capabilities of the VACT were tested using a hypothetical volcanic eruption and airborne ash scenario impacting Alaska airspace. During the eruption scenario, the partner agencies performed the operational actions described in The Alaska Interagency Operating Plan for Volcanic Ash Episodes, utilizing the VACT for as much of the process as possible. Ash dispersion model output, combined with various meteorological graphics, polar orbiting satellite imagery, and aircraft position information, was collaboratively examined, and operational considerations were discussed using the VACT text chat feature. The evaluation will be described, and reaction by partner agencies discussed. The results of the evaluation will lead to further enhancements of advisory preparation tools and refinements of the VACT user interface prior to operational implementation of these proven capabilities and features.