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Scientists forecast decades of ash clouds – Times Online (and some amazing images from NASA) [and an update from met.ie]

Scientists forecast decades of ash clouds – Times Online.

THE Icelandic eruption that has caused misery for air travellers could be part of a surge in volcanic activity that will affect the whole of Europe for decades, scientists have warned.

They have reconstructed a timeline of 205 eruptions in Iceland, spanning the past 1,100 years, and found that they occur in regular cycles — with the relatively quiet phase that dominated the past five decades now coming to an end.

At least three other big Icelandic volcanoes are building towards an eruption, according to Thor Thordarson, a volcanologist at Edinburgh University.

This is a bit worrying. Might be time invest the pennies in Ferry company shares!

Meanwhile, NASA has some amazing images of the latest eruption:

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano produced its second major ash plume of 2010 beginning on May 7. This latest plume has thus far caused far fewer aircraft disruptions than the earlier eruption, however, due, in part, to computer models that are being used to predict the spread of volcanic ash. A key constraint to running volcanic plume simulation models is data on how high the volcanic ash is being injected into the atmosphere, as well as the amount and timing of ash released. The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite passed just east of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano mid-morning on May 7, 2010, and viewed its ash plume for about 600 kilometers (373 miles) downwind. From MISR’s nine different angular images, the height of the ash plume can be derived. On the left is a natural-color, nadir (directly downward) view of the scene, with the volcano itself just off the upper left corner of the image, and the main plume extending to the southeast. At right is the stereo-derived plume height, which is retrieved at 1.1 kilometer (0.68 mile) horizontal resolution, and with vertical accuracy of about half a kilometer (0.3 miles). Much of the plume resides between 4 and 6 kilometers (2.5 and 4 miles) above the ocean surface (orange and red color in the right image), but descends to the 3 kilometer (2 mile) range (yellow-green) far downwind. Note also the smaller patch of ash plume near the source, within about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of the surface (blue in the right image), which appears to be traveling to the southwest.

Met Eireann:
Volcanic Ash update issued at 1300 hrs on Sunday May 16th
The activity of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano continues and the plume is currently reaching up to between 20000 and 30000 feet (latest information received from the Icelandic Met Office).
The Icelandic Met Office also states that there are no signs that the eruption is about to end.
Northwesterly winds are pushing a plume of volcanic ash southeastwards over Ireland at the moment. This plume will remain over Irish airspace tonight.
A southwesterly airflow will become established over Ireland on Monday and will gradually push the plume away from us to the northeast. The plume should clear from over Munster and Connacht and by Monday night and then continue to clear from Leinster and Ulster overnight and on Tuesday morning.
The mainly southwesterly airflow will persist through the rest of the week and should keep the ash away from Irish airspace.
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A few items from ‘Flowing Data’: Marge Simpson is Europe in disguise; Air traffic rebooted in northern Europe & Discuss: Powerpoint is the enemy?

Marge Simpson is Europe in disguise (seriously).

and

Air traffic rebooted in northern Europe

[By Nathan Yau – Apr 26, 2010: ‘Air traffic has returned to normal levels in northern Europe, and planes fill up the sky once again. Ito world, who has been doing some great stuff lately, visualizes the reboot of air traffic. We start to see some planes on April 18, and by April 20, everything is back to normal.’]

Ireland starts to re-appear at around the 00.30 sec mark.

Discuss: Powerpoint is the enemy? This graphic has to be seen to be believed. An object lesson in how not to do infographics or visualise relationships.

Check here for some superb guidelines on how to do data visualisation. And The Scientist has a helpful article on scientific data presentation –  ‘Pimp Your Powerpoint’ (which promises to help you design ‘…attention-grabbing presentations that stand out from the typical snoozers’).

Eyjafjallajokull’s global fallout | e! Science News (Eureka Alerts)

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Eyjafjallajokull’s global fallout | e! Science News.

Eyjafjallajokull’s global fallout
Published: Friday, April 23, 2010 – 08:37 in Mathematics & Economics

Eyjafjallajökull and its massive cloud of volcanic ash clearly have had an enormous impact on Europe and its airports, disrupting the mobility of millions and costing airlines more than a billion euros. But what about the volcano’s effect globally? While much more difficult to determine, Northwestern University professor Dirk Brockmann and his research group jumped at the chance to examine the global impact. Mobility patterns in places far from Europe — including the United States, India and southeast Asia — were significantly affected by the European disruption, to the surprise of Brockmann.

The team compared the entire worldwide air transportation network before and after the 27 major European airports were closed and used complex network theory to compute and list the most affected airports still operating.

“We were surprised to discover that at the top of the list were airports outside of Europe, not airports in Europe,” Brockmann said. “Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing are some of the high-traffic airports most affected, despite being geographically distant from Europe and separated from Iceland by continents.”

He and his graduate students Daniel Grady, Christian Thiemann and Olivia Woolley also found that airports like Madrid and Dubai have become more central in the entire air transportation network, taking over the role of the closed airports.

Brockmann and his group have expertise in running simulations and computational models of human transportation networks and pandemic diseases. He is associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“European airports are bridges to the world — the majority of global air traffic goes through Europe,” Brockmann said. “The distances to places have increased globally as a result of the volcanic ash disruption. Mumbai, for example, has become more disconnected than we expected from the U.S. and Africa. Flights from the U.S. to Mumbai normally go through Europe, but now Mumbai is a more distant city to us.”

A trip that may have required two flights before the volcano’s eruption might have taken four or five trips when the situation was at its worst, which translates into more time, says Brockmann.

At the peak of the disruption, with the 27 major European airports closed, 10 percent of the entire global air traffic system was removed. The slowdown in air traffic affected not only the mobility of people but that of fresh vegetables and fruit, grains and other food, medicine, machinery parts and more.

“The removal of those 27 nodes dramatically affects the entire complex system,” said Brockmann. “We can quantify Eyjafjallajökull’s effect and illustrate it, which is not a simple thing to do.” (After much practice, he can pronounce the volcano’s name. It is pronounced EYE-a-fyat-la-jo-kutl.)

“In this case, the entire air transportation system was slowed but still works,” said Brockmann, who most recently studied the spread of swine flu. “Our calculations show that an actual system breakdown requires the removal of 80 percent of the airports from the system. This shows how robust the system is.”

The researchers next plan to make a comparative analysis of the Eyjafjallajökull’s event and the effects of 9/11 on air traffic and mobility.

Source: Northwestern University