Reading research gives more accurate analysis of volcanic dust cloud
Release Date 24 May 2011
Research undertaken at the University of Reading on last year's volcano eruption in Iceland is already having a direct benefit on our understanding of the dispersion of the Grimsvotn volcanic ash cloud.
Specially designed weather balloon probes that Reading used last year to measure the ash plume in Scotland has been supplied to the Met Office this week for the same purpose. This will allow a direct comparison between the two eruptions.
Giles Harrison, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading, said: "Analysis of multiple measurements made last year has improved the detail of volcanic ash forecasts. This research has been done in little more than a year and is already have a positive influence on our predictions.
"The situation is very changeable compared to last year, mainly due to the winds. Any disruption to aircraft is more likely to be more intermittent than last year.
"Interestingly the amount of volcanic lightning that the Grimsvotn volcano has produced is exceptional and 100 times higher than last year. It contributed to 20% of all lightning detected on the planet at the time. More lightning means the plume is much higher and carries more volcanic material."
Dr Helen Dacre, a lecturer in meterology at the University, contributed to the research at Reading and recently had a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.
Dr Dacre said: "The weather patterns are different to last year. In April 2010 a persistent high-pressure system was located over the UK and the north Atlantic resulting in the ash cloud being transported towards Europe and remaining stagnant in that region.
"Currently the weather situation is very dynamic. There is a deep low pressure system centred in the North Sea and this morning winds were north-westerly bringing ash directly from Iceland to Scotland and the north of England."
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