In the largest U.S. atmospheric chemistry field project in decades, researchers sponsored by the National Science Foundation and other organizations are working to study tiny particles and gases in the air over the southeastern United States. The study looks at the chemical reactions between human-related pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by vegetation such as trees in forests. Read more in this news release.
Credit: Southeast Atmosphere Study
Glaciovolcanoes, they're called--these rumbling mountains where the orange-red fire of magma meets the frozen blue of glaciers. When Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, scientists were well prepared for the floods, called "jökulhlaups," that can happen after a glaciovolcano blows and melts its glacial covering. The floods were followed by tons of ash ejected into the atmosphere. Most of the rest of the world, however, was unaware that an eruption from a small, northern island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean could freeze air transportation and stop global commerce in its tracks. Read more in this news release.
Credit: Marco Fulle
The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) of the Directorate for Geosciences supports research geared toward improving the understanding of the structure, composition and evolution of the Earth, the life it supports, and the processes that govern the formation and behavior of the Earth's materials.
In 2010, a $2 billion shutdown of European airspace following a volcanic eruption in Iceland alerted everyone to the danger that ash clouds can pose to aircraft engines. Researchers have discovered that a new class of ceramic coatings could offer jet engines special protection against volcanic ash damage in the future.
A University at Buffalo volcanologist who is an expert in volcanic ash cloud transport has shown 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.
July 29, 2013
Damaging Volcanic Ash Stays Well Beyond Welcome
Researchers study how various sizes, shapes of volcanic ash travel through the atmosphere
Volcanic ash can become a multimillion-dollar nightmare, lingering in the skies, getting into engines and damaging aircraft.
Volcanic ash is known to present hazards to aviation, infrastructure, agriculture, and human and animal health. With the emergence of aviation in the last 50 years as a key component of global travel and transport, the importance of understanding how long ash is suspended in the atmosphere, and how far it is transported has taken on greater importance.
Airborne ash abrades the exteriors of aircraft, enters modern jet engines and melts while coating the interior parts, thus causing damage and failure. For example, the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland was the most disruptive event in aviation history, with billions of dollars of losses to the aviation industry and global economy. Much of this was unnecessary and better knowledge of the transport of fine ash could minimize such losses in the future. However, present understanding of ash transportation can only account for general air movements, but cannot fully address how much or how long ash remains in the atmosphere, and how much falls out as the ash travels downwind.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), volcanologist Dork Sahagian of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and his colleagues are learning more about the aerodynamic properties of ash, and how long different sizes and shapes stay in the atmosphere. They use a wind tunnel to study how ash travels in the atmosphere during and after volcanic eruptions. The researchers want to develop ways to predict when and for how long damaging ash will fill the skies, and when it's safe to fly again.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.