NASA Tracks Volcanic Ash With Satellites


[music] The Calbuco volcano erupted in April 2015 spewing a plume of ash and sulfur dioxide over ten miles into the air. Volcanic ash like this can cause airplane engines to fail, and it can persist in the atmosphere for a long time. It can be difficult to distinguish the volcanic plume from ordinary clouds, but NASA scientists are developing a new way to map the full three dimensional structure of a volcanic cloud, providing improved information for air traffic management. The concentration of sulfur dioxide, is mapped by the Suomi NPP satellite as it passes overhead, and then looks back and also measures the vertical profile of the cloud in three separate slices. The location and height of the particles, as well as the amount of sulfur dioxide, is being integrated into models of weather patterns to forecast the spread of the volcanic cloud. The high resolution of the data from the vertical profiles allows a more accurate forecast in the days, weeks, and months after an eruption, which could reduce airline cancellations and re-routing costs. The final product will be available in near-real time for use by operational agencies making decisions about flight safety. [beeping]

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