On 18 August 2014 the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) upgraded the aviation colour code for the Baroarbunga volcano to ‘Orange’ which means that, ‘The volcano shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption’.
UPDATE: On 23 August 2014, the morning after this article was published, it was raised to ‘Red’ (‘Eruption is forecast to be imminent with significant emission of ash into the atmosphere likely’), initially stating that there were signs of a sub-glacial eruption but now stating this is on the basis they cannot rule out an eruption. There remain different views on the current situation but seismic events continue (see live updates).
While local earthquakes continue the IMO state there are no signs of ongoing volcanic activity, but many will remember the Eyjafjallajökull (E15) volcano disruption of 2010.
The Icelandic Coast Guard has brought their Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 maritime surveillance aircraft (delivered by Field in 2009) back from an EU deployment in the Mediterranean to provide airborne monitoring.
The UK Met Office now have an asset they didn’t have in 2010, the Met Office Civil Contingency Aircraft (MOCCA). A pressurised, piston engined Cessna 421C, MOCCA can fly safely into worse ash conditions than a turbine powered aircraft to better map dispersion of ash or smoke from environmental disasters such as the 2005 Buncefield oil depot fire. The necessary modifications were designed by Cranfield Aerospace, and the aircraft operated by special mission specialists DO Systems.
Meanwhile, easyJet has been trialling the Norwegian AVOID sensors system for use on their Airbus aircraft (which included generating their own asj cloud), however this equipment is not likely to be in-service until 2015.
See David Learmouth’s comments in his Flight International blog here. UPDATE: In this article he also expands on the roles of the European Aviation Crisis Co-ordination Cell (EACCC) was set up following the 2010 event.
As Aerossurance has reported previously, the oil and gas industry has also been working on its resilience planning to cope with aviation disruptions for any reason.
Europe is now better prepared and will have better data to make sound judgements compared to 2010.
- Rolls-Royce presentation – note page 7, an assessment of volcanic risk worldwide
- Airbus presentation
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