A University at Buffalo volcanologist, an expert in volcanic ash cloud transport, published a paper recently showing how the jet stream – the area in the atmosphere that pilots prefer to fly in – also seems to be the area most likely to be impacted by plumes from volcanic ash.
"That's a problem," says Marcus I. Bursik, PhD, one of the foremost experts on volcanic plumes and their effect on aviation safety, "because modern transcontinental and transoceanic air routes are configured to take advantage of the jet stream's power, saving both time and fuel.
"The interaction of the jet stream and the plume is likely a factor here," says Bursik, professor of geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. "Basically, planes have to fly around the plume or just stop flying, as they have, as the result of this eruption in Iceland."
In some cases, if the plume can be tracked well enough with satellites, pilots can steer around the plume, he notes, but that didn't work in this case because the ash drifted right over Britain.
Bursik participated in the first meetings in the early 1990s between volcanologists and the aviation industry to develop methods to ensure safe air travel in the event of volcanic eruptions. He and colleagues authored a 2009 paper called "Volcanic plumes and wind: Jet stream interaction examples and implications for air traffic" in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.
"In the research we did, we found that the jet stream essentially stops the plume from rising higher into the atmosphere," he says. "Because the jet stream causes the density of the plume to drop so fast, the plume's ability to rise above the jet stream is halted: the jet stream caps the plume at a certain atmospheric level."
Bursik says that new techniques now in development will be capable of producing better estimates of where and when ash clouds from volcanoes will travel.
He and his colleagues have proposed a project with researchers at the University of Alaska that would improve tracking estimates to find out where volcanic ash clouds are going.
"What we get now is a mean estimate of where ash should be in atmosphere," says Bursik, "but our proposal is designed to develop both the mean estimate and estimates of error that would be more accurate and useful. It could help develop scenarios that would provide a quantitative probability as to how likely a plane is to fly through the plume, depending on the route."
Bursik also is working with other researchers at UB, led by UB geology professor Greg Valentine, on a project called VHub, a 'cyber infrastructure for collaborative volcano research and mitigation.'
VHUB would speed the transfer of new tools developed by volcanologists to the government agencies charged with protecting the public from the hazards of volcanic eruptions. That international project, which Valentine heads up at UB, with researchers at Michigan Technological University and the University of South Florida, was funded recently by the National Science Foundation.
Bursik's co-authors on the jet stream paper are Shannon E. Kobs and Aaron Burns, both former UB graduate students in geology, L.I. Bazanova and I.V. Melekestves, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, A. Kurbatov of the University of Maine, Orono, and D.C. Pieri of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology.
The research was funded by NSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and California Institute of Technology and Science Applications International Corp.
Bursik and Valentine are members of the UB Center for GeoHazards Studies at http://www.geohazards.buffalo.edu, which is supporting the UB2020 goals in Extreme Events.
Ellen Goldbaum | EurekAlert!
Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation
Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences