UPDATED: Iceland volcanic activity

23 08 2014

The Icelandic Met Office (IMO), who monitor volcanoes in the country, have reduced their ‘aviation colour code’ for the Barðarbunga volcano back to Orange.

They elevated the code to Red on Saturday 23 August after an increase in seismic activity which suggested the onset of a sub-glacial eruption.

Further evidence since then has suggested no eruption has occurred, the IMO say, and therefore they have reduced the colour code back to Orange.

The Orange code means ‘Volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption’.

Scientists at the IMO have also said that there are no indications that the seismic activity around the volcano is slowing down and therefore an eruption cannot be excluded. They will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

The Met Office hosts one of nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC) around the world, which – in the event of a volcanic eruption – give advice on the likely dispersion of ash clouds.

We cover volcanoes in the North East Atlantic, primarily in Iceland. The volcanic ash forecasts are used by airlines, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and NATS (National Air Traffic Services) to make decisions on airspace flight management.

Advice will be issued should there be any eruption. Because the dispersal of any ash would heavily depend on the type and extent of eruption, as well as the prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions at the time, we cannot speculate on where ash may go until there is an eruption.

The Met Office will continue to stay in regular contact with the IMO and will keep the CAA fully informed as the UK’s aviation regulator as well as other stakeholders in the UK and abroad.

Guest blog: Met Office launches volcanic ash forecasting game for National Science and Engineering Week

15 03 2013

Today’s guest post is from our education channel for children, here’s Billy Blizzard to tell us about EVACuate…


Billy Blizzard

National Science & Engineering Week (NSEW) 2013 starts today and is now a mainstay in the UK events calendar. Initiatives like this have led the cultural shift  towards science being ‘cool’, and people are now ‘getting their geek on’ in droves.

NSEW has been going for nearly 20 years now and it’s an excellent excuse for us all to take part in something scientific that relates to our daily lives. At the Met Office, science is our daily lives, so we’re very supportive of this initiative and will be celebrating the week with the rest of the UK.

In fact, to show the strength of our support we’ve created a new game ‘eVACuate!’ for people to play at home or in classrooms across the country. Based on our volcanic ash forecasting responsibilities, teams are tasked with advising the Centre for Emergency Situations with the evacuation efforts on the fictional Green Island, where FitzRoy’s Peak has started to erupt!

As the UK’s national weather and climate service, we take every opportunity to help people understand what we do and how we do it. Having a game based on mapping volcanic ash clouds highlights the vital role we play in providing weather information – and more –  for the country.

To get involved visit NSEW or play the game.

Related articles

Volcanic Ash Guidance ceases from Met Office as Iceland Volcano remains ‘paused’

29 05 2011

Latest information received from the Icelandic Meteorological Office indicate that the volcanic activity in Iceland has paused.

As a result of this lower activity, UK airspace is not expected to be affected by any further ash cloud and the Met Office will no longer issue Volcanic Ash Guidance from the VAAC.

Volcanologists and Geologists term this quieter spell of volcanic activity as a “paused” phase. However, it is typical for a volcano like this to have several “pauses” as part of its overall eruption phase. Only when the volcano has been “paused” for three months will it then be regarded as being dormant.

Although no ash cloud is being emitted at the moment, while any volcanic activity continues the Met Office will continue to monitor the situation.

Met Office in the Media: 26th May 2011

26 05 2011

Our scientists and forecasters have been at the centre of providing advice to the aviation, industry and government over the last week in support of the eruption of the Grimsvotn eruption in Iceland this week. Following ash across the UK we continue to see an improving picture as we head toward the Bank Holiday weekend.

This was covered on the BBC Ten O’Clock News last night as flights resumed across the UK, highlighting the latest ash cloud forecast outlook charts.  The Daily Express and The Sun have also both reported on the clearance of ash.  The Daily Mail reported that ‘Half term is on again‘ after yesterday reporting that there was likely to be widespread disruption into the weekend.  However we had previously made it very clear that beyond 24 hours the situation becomes more uncertain as it is difficult for the Iceland Meteorological Office to know how the volcano will behave. Weather patterns also become more variable leading to a dynamic situation. Both these facts mean that longer range charts  have less confidence than short range output and this should be considered when they are used. Following the volcano stopping to erupt and more observational data being gathered on ash emitted at the beginning of the eruption, ash concentrations over the UK on Friday and into the weekend are likely to be at levels that, according to the CAA, are not prohibitive to flying safely.

Finally, Steve Connor in the Independent has written an article  ‘The real danger to air passengers is not the ash cloud – it’s these men’. The article looks at the danger volcanic ash poses to aircraft and the work of the CAA and Met Office in ensuring that airlines can operate safely, highlighting the ‘ plethora of scientific instruments, from optical sensing machines on the ground to satellites in space’ used to identify whereabouts of the ash.

Grímsvötn ash cloud – better news for the Bank Holiday

25 05 2011

Latest information received from the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) indicates that the Grímsvötn volcano is no longer emitting ash, and only minor steam plumes from the crater up to around 300 metres. According to the British Geological Survey (BGS), the volcano is still active with on-going low level seismic activity reported, even though this has decreased.

Our advice for today is that the ash has now moved away from the UK toward the continent. Further ahead, Met Office latest volcanic ash cloud advice is that we continue to be in an improving situation and it seems likely that there will only be minimal ash over the UK and Europeas we enter the Bank Holiday weekend. CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines can advise how this improving picture will affect flights.

The movement of the ash cloud will depend on whether we see any further volcanic eruptions and how weather patterns develop. The Met Office London VAAC continues to provide forecast guidance up to 24 hours ahead to support decision-making.

Met Office volcanic ash cloud advice is based on a combination of model output, satellite data and other information from radar, lidar and aircraft. Model information is validated using this observational data and is routinely modified to provide the best advice possible.

Ash observations confirm Met Office ash forecasts

24 05 2011

The Grímsvötn volcano continues to eject ash according to latest information  from colleagues in the Iceland Met Office and British Geological Survey. As the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for the northwest Europe region, the Met Office uses this information to provide guidance on the movement of the ash plume.

Ash reports today across northern Scotland confirm Met Office ash forecasts issued on Monday.  Latest observations include:

  • Satellite and Lidar observations confirm the presence of ash over northern Britain in the last 24 hours.
  • A plane flying from Aberdeen to the Shetlands encountered volcanic ash during the flight with ash being deposited on the aircraft.
  • This morning ash deposits were found on a plane that had be flying in the Orkney area.
  • A plane flying from Stansted to Belfast observed a layer of ash to the north /northwest of the flight path.
  • A plane flying at a height of 18,000 feet in the Manchester area around 2pm today has observed a layer of ash of approximately 1000-2000 feet thick.
  • The research ship Discovery entered an area of thick volcanic ash on Monday between Scotland and Iceland with ash being deposited onboard.
  • Professional observers have reported ash being deposited in northern Britain.
  • Ash has been deposited on vehicles on Orkney.
  • Air quality sensors across Scotland have indicated an increased amount of ash particles (PM10s) during today and more information is available from the DEFRA website.

The movement of the ash plume will depend on how long the volcano continues to erupt and how weather patterns develop. The Met Office London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) continues to provide forecast guidance up to 24 hours ahead to support decision-making. This guidance is provided to the Civil Aviation Authority as the lead agency, NATS, airports and airline operators in order to support their decisions on whether aircraft can fly safely.

The ash is predicted to clear northern parts of the UK by early Wednesday. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines. Met Office forecasts for the end of this week indicate mainly low levels of ash affecting parts of UK and Europe. This forecast does depend on the status of the Volcano since the wind direction and strength will remain variable. You should stay up to date with the latest advice from the Met Office. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by CAA and NATS together with the individual airlines.

Met Office in the Media: 26th April 2011

26 04 2011

As we head back to work the Met Office can confirm that we have had the hottest Easter in recent history. The hottest place over the weekend was Wisley in Surrey where the Met Office recorded a high of 27.8 C on Saturday. Many other parts enjoyed temperatures in the low and mid 20s though it was cooler in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The previous warmest Easter was in 1984 when temperatures reach 23.7 C.

Met Office comes to the rescue as hay-fever sufferers wilt in heat writes Mike McCarthy in the Independent explaining that Britain’s millions of hayfever sufferers have a new helping hand following the  introduction of daily pollen forecasts on our website. The new service, which covers the whole of the UK, represents a step change in the resources available to sufferers. At present, it is updated at noon every day, but it is hoped that the update can be made earlier in the day to give sufferers more time to plan their days.

It gives pollen forecasts for each of the Met Office’s 16 regions, which are available as two-day, three-day and five-day forecasts, updated daily, and a monthly forecast, updated every week.

Yolanda Clewlow, Met Office UK Pollen Network Manager said: “Variable weather conditions across the country mean that levels of pollen often vary greatly from day to day, so it’s important the hay fever sufferers stay up to date with the latest forecast. You may need to take medication in advance of high-count days.”

The Independent (Branson and O’Leary ‘were wrong’ to deny ash-cloud risk), BBC (Volcanic ash air shutdown the ‘right’ decision) and Guardian (Concerns for air traffic during volcanic ash cloud were legitimate, say scientists), A new report published this week and completed by the University of Iceland and the University of Copenhagen have shown that it was right to close airspace following the eruption of the Iceland Volcano in April 2010.  Airspace closures in Europe potentially averted tragic consequences after Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano shot ash high into the atmosphere in April 2010.  Immediately after the eruption, Sigurdur Gislason and colleagues at the University of Iceland collected samples of the ash and sent them to a team led by Susan Stipp at the University of Copenhagen’s Nano-Science Center. The Danish researchers analyzed the samples and determined that the costly flight cancellations had likely been warranted. According to the authors, glacial meltwater entered the volcano and cooled the magma, which produced ash particles that were especially fine-grained, hard, sharp, and capable of sandblasting airplane surfaces such as windows and exposed aluminum parts. In addition, the authors estimate that the Eyjafjallajökull ash would have melted at the high operating temperature of most jet engines, potentially caused them to stall. In 1982, all four engines failed on an airliner carrying 263 passengers after the craft flew through an explosive ash cloud over Indonesia. The pilot managed to restart three of the engines and land safely by peering through a small strip of glass that had avoided scouring. The authors also present a protocol that may help officials assess the risk to aircraft posed by future explosive eruptions.


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