In May 2010, the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajkull reached the Iberian Peninsula and brought airports to a halt all over Europe. At the time, scientists followed its paths using satellites, laser detectors, sun photometers and other instruments. Two years later they have now presented the results and models that will help to prevent the consequences of such natural phenomena.
The eruption of the Eyjafjallajkull in the south of Iceland began on the 20 March, 2010. On the 14 April it began to emit a cloud of ash that moved towards Northern and Central Europe, resulting in the closure of airspace. Hundreds of planes and millions of passengers were grounded.
After a period of calm, volcanic activity intensified once again on the 3 May. This time the winds transported the aerosols (a mixture of particles and gas) towards Spain and Portugal where some airports had to close between the 6 and 12 May. This was also a busy time for scientists who took advantage of the situation to monitor the phenomenon. Their work has now been published in the Atmospheric Environment journal.
"The huge economic impact of this event shows the need to describe with precision how a volcanic plume spreads through the atmosphere. It also highlighted the importance of characterising in detail its particles composition and establishing its concentration limits to ensure safe air navigation," explains Arantxa Revuelta, researcher at the Spanish Research Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology (CIEMAT).
The team identified the volcanic ash cloud as it passed over Madrid thanks to LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), the most effective system for assessing aerosol concentration at a height. The CIEMAT station is one of 27 belonging to the European network EARLINET (European Aerosol Research Lidar Network) that use this instrument. Its members have also published a publicly accessible article on the matter in the Atmospheri
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology