France: Java’s Mt Merapi in Indonesia has been spewing volcanic ash clouds into the air since October 26, 2010 and has killed more than 200 people. To deal with this deadly situation, European Space Agency (ESA) is sending email alerts about sulphur dioxide in near-real time. A map around the location of the sulphur dioxide peak is put on a dedicated web page, provided in the email.
This Support to Aviation Control Service is based on data from ESA’s Envisat, Eumetsat’s MetOp and NASA’s Aura satellites. ESA started the ‘Support to Aviation for Volcanic Ash Avoidance’ project as a demonstration that uses satellite data and wind measurements to compute the injection heights of volcanic emissions.
Flight disruptions from Mt Merapi’s ash cloud echo the situation faced in Europe in April and May when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano spewed huge amounts of ash and grounded numerous flights.
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAACs) are responsible for gathering ash cloud information and assessing the risks to aviation. Australia’s Darwin VAAC is using satellite data of the plume to issue its forecasts.
Dr Andrew Tupper of the Bureau of Meteorology said, “The updates from ESA have been very useful to Darwin VAAC when received in real time, and we expect that in the post-event analysis, we’ll be able to show lots more potential value.”
Satellites help VAACs by providing information on ash and the trace gases, such as sulphur dioxide, erupting into the atmosphere.