A volcanic-hazard demonstration exercise to assess and mitigate the impacts of volcanic ash clouds on civil and military aviation

Hirtl, Marcus ; Arnold, Delia ; Baro, Rocio ; Brenot, Hugues ; Coltelli, Mauro ; Eschbacher, Kurt ; Hard-Stremayer, Helmut ; Lipok, Florian ; Maurer, Christian ; Meinhard, Dieter ; Mona, Lucia ; Mulder, Marie D. ; Papagiannopoulos, Nikolaos ; Pernsteiner, Michael ; Plu, Matthieu ; Robertson, Lennart ; Rokitansky, Carl-Herbert ; Scherllin-Pirscher, Barbara ; Sievers, Klaus ; Sofiev, Mikhail ; Som de Cerff, Wim ; Steinheimer, Martin ; Stuefer, Martin ; Theys, Nicolas ; Uppstu, Andreas ; Wagenaar, Saskia ; Winkler, Roland ; Wotawa, Gerhard ; Zobl, Fritz ; Zopp, Raimund

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Volcanic eruptions comprise an important airborne hazard for aviation. Although significant events are rare, e.g. compared to the threat of thunderstorms, they have a very high impact. The current state of tools and abilities to mitigate aviation hazards associated with an assumed volcanic cloud was tested within an international demonstration exercise. Experts in the field assembled at the Schwarzenberg barracks in Salzburg, Austria, in order to simulate the sequence of procedures for the volcanic case scenario of an artificial eruption of the Etna volcano in Italy. The scope of the exercise ranged from the detection (based on artificial observations) of the assumed event to the issuance of early warnings. Volcanic-emission-concentration charts were generated applying modern ensemble techniques. The exercise products provided an important basis for decision-making for aviation traffic management during a volcanic-eruption crisis. By integrating the available wealth of data, observations and modelling results directly into widely used flight-planning software, it was demonstrated that route optimization measures could be implemented effectively. With timely and rather precise warnings available, the new tools and processes tested during the exercise demonstrated vividly that a vast majority of flights could be conducted despite a volcanic plume being widely dispersed within a high-traffic airspace over Europe. The resulting number of flight cancellations was minimal.</p>

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