Channels ▼

Open Source

Software for Predicting Volcanic Emissions

Researchers at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid's Facultad de Informatica have developed a system to forecast the evolution of the ash cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

The EUROPEAN OPERATIONAL ICELANDIC VOLCANO ASH FORECASTS system is based on an estimate of the volcano's daily emissions gathered using OMI, GOME-2, and SCIAMACHY satellite observations, and is available for consultation over the Internet free of charge. These emissions vary on a daily basis, although, for forecasting purposes, the emissions observed on the satellites are assumed to be constant during the forecasting or model simulation period. This is the biggest source of uncertainty, as it is not known exactly how the volcano's emissions will evolve in the future.

The system combines information on the volcano's behavior, gathered twice a day from the above satellites, with environmental information, like wind speed and direction, air humidity, etc., that influences the evolution of the volcanic ash cloud.

The system was developed based on a European-wide air quality forecasting system, also built at the Facultad de Informatica, which has been operational since 2008 and is based on MM5 (NCAR, US) and CMAQ (US EPA) models. For this new undertaking, satellite-gathered information on the emissions from the volcano has been added to the model.

Prediction is based on the assumption that the emitted volcanic ash cloud rises from 4.5 to 8 kilometers into the air. The system analyzes the information as sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2). The daily calculations are made from the above satellite observations, and the results are visualized at three levels using Dobson units.

The Dobson unit (DU) is a way of expressing the quantity of ozone present in the Earth's atmosphere, specifically the stratosphere. In actual fact, it is a measure of the thickness of the ozone layer. In the case of the volcano, this measure is used to determine the density of the ash cloud.

The forecast is subject to some uncertainty because there is no way of ascertaining how the volcano will behave from one day to the next. However, the high-quality software model used has been providing forecasts of ozone and other pollutants stipulated by European Directives (and the respective national legislation) for several years based on MM5 since the year 2000 and CMAQ since 2007.

The system has been operating experimentally for several weeks and is run by the Environmental Software and Modelling Group (GMSMA) led by Professor Roberto San Jose.

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.