Airlines Blame Flawed Computer Modeling For Up To $1.7 Billion Loss

As a follow up to our 4/19 story about ash cloud modeling:

Ash cloud models – overrated? A word on Post Normal Science by Dr. Jerome Ravetz

I offer below a compendium of articles from Benny’ Pieser’s CCNET and GWPF of the UK

Image via Richard North, EU Referendum click image for his view

Above:

The Met Office has been blamed for triggering the “unnecessary” six-day closure of British airspace which has cost airlines, passengers and the economy more than £1.5 billion.–The Telegraph 19 April, 2010

Global airlines have lost about $1.7bn of revenue as a result of the disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption, a body has said. Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of IATA,  criticised governments for the haste with which they closed airspace, and called on them to provide compensation to the airlines. “Airspace was being closed based on theoretical models, not on facts. Test flights by our members showed that the models were wrong.” BBC, 21 April 2010


We are becoming a risk-averse society and that is dangerous. You cannot run a national economy on the precautionary principle; indeed, the sound position is to embrace as much risk as possible. Societies that embrace risk, such as the United States and recently the UK, tend to thrive, while those that seek to minimise risk, such as Britain during the 1970s, tend to wither. Financial capital is now fleeing Britain, heading to the Far East. A long queue of companies is chasing the money, including our own Prudential, which is floating a business on the Chinese stock market. The true venturers are over there, not in Britain.  The Times, 21 April 2010

Rational decisions have to be taken on the basis of some empirical understanding of the risks involved, and on the balance between risk and reward (or the cost of avoiding risk). Exposing the nonsense and muddle of the so-called precautionary principle is an essential part of the GWPF’s declared mission ‘to bring reason, integrity and balance to a climate debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant’. If the argument now raging over the policy response to the volcanic ash clouds assists in achieving this, it will demonstrate that ash clouds, too, have a silver lining. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 20 April 2010

About these ads
This entry was posted in Alarmism, Modeling, Vulcanism. Bookmark the permalink.

153 Responses to Airlines Blame Flawed Computer Modeling For Up To $1.7 Billion Loss

  1. Henry chance says:

    The Met Office. The same computor that predicted higher temps than actual 9 of the last 10 years? They were wrong 10 of 10 years.

  2. WasteYourOwnMoney says:

    Theoretical models and alarmism costing billions? Barely a drop in the bucket compared to the UN-IPCC plans.

  3. ShrNfr says:

    Gosh darn, they must have just read the wrong tree rings. So much for CRUde modeling. The MET doesn’t get the weather right for years on end and they want us to believe their global warming nonsense. Please. When your models predict something that occurs, then and only then get back to us.

    Where has all the sea heat gone?
    Long time passing.
    Where has all the sea heat gone?
    Long time ago.
    Gone to sea floors every joule?
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Gone to ocean floors every erg

  4. len says:

    but heaven forbid if the airplane, if the skylanes were open,,,had an engine failure and crashed, because you know, people would Never sue the airlines/gov’t that allowed the planes to fly if that happened…. nope noone would Ever do that (that was sarcasm btw)

  5. len says:

    wish there was an edit:

    yes the models were probably too “conservative” from a safety point of view, but i’d rather have safe + all the airlines all got a free cover your *** excuse.

  6. If a plane had of gone down, everyone would be screaming for their heads. The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

  7. wsbriggs says:

    This should cause a great deal of rethinking on the subject of computer-based weather modeling. I’ve got a strong suspicion that the code developed by SUNY Stony Brook in the early 2000s using GPU acceleration was substantially superior to this. Los Alamos also did codes for dispersal of aerosols prior to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Both sets of code were tested to verify the results.

    Non tested code shows arrogance of the worst sort.

  8. ShrNfr says:

    Moderator. Please if you post my earlier post, kill the “Gone to sea floors every erg” line. Thanks. It was a mistake on my part. My bad.

  9. enneagram says:

    Consensus among idiots (believers) has replaced reason and common sense. Freedom entails, thanks God, risk. The once adverture of the human spirit has been replaced by the imaginary stability of the Bee Queen protected bee-hive.
    As normal parethood knew from the beginning of time, excess protection rear only future beggars or, worst, slaves.

  10. Henry chance says:

    A £30 million supercomputer, designed to predict climate change, has been named as one of Britain’s worst polluters in the latest embarrassment for the Met Office.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/6098859/The-Met-Office-super-computer-by-numbers.html

    With the new NEC computer, they can miscalculate faster than ever before possible.

  11. Fred says:

    What would you expect from the Met Office?

    After all they have proven themselves totally incapable of accurately predicting sweltering BBQ summer weather and mild, snow free winters, so why would you expect them to build a model that accurately predicted the spread and impact of volcanic ash?

  12. ZT says:

    Looks like the Met Office needs an Royal Society inquiry to restore it tarnished image.

  13. John Galt says:

    Stopping flights until somebody actually measured the ash was the proper thing to do.

    I wonder if somebody resisted allowing flights to resume because they didn’t want to admit they were wrong?

    BTW: I am once again perplexed about what this has to do with Post-Normal Science.

    It seems normal science and engineering already had the proper methods to solve this problem — measure the actual ash and then estimate the risks.

    Decisions cannot be made without good data.

  14. Zikomo says:

    Well… As much as I’m annoyed by people overreacting to computer models I think I’ll let this one slide. As I heard on the news from some talking head over the weekend “Would you rather be on the ground wishing you are in the air, or in the air wishing you were on the ground?”

  15. Bill Marsh says:

    ROFL, welcome to the club. ‘Climate Change’ Policy is based on Theoretical models, not fact as well.

  16. kwik says:

    Aha! AshGate?

  17. Erik says:

    Richard North’s take on this:
    “Part of me – the unrealistic, hopeless optimist – says, surely people will read my blog and see that their story is crap”

    “The responsibility for this failure lies initially with the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) – which is made up delegates from the member states, which puts the individual governments in the frame. Regional responsibility then rests with the EU commission and Eurocontrol, which turns the “guidance” from ICAO into mandatory requirements.”

    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/04/hook-line-and-sinker.html

  18. Henry Galt says:

    You cannot even “run” a family on the precautionary principle ffs.

    Maybe these guys could become our allies.

  19. carddan says:

    When a business suffers such a huge loss, it is also the employees and consumers who suffer. However, this is hysterical. “It is only funny until someone gets hurt, then it’s hysterical”. There is humor in the hubris and folly of mankind.

  20. The Met Office models are actually quite good at modeling atmospheric circulation over a period of a few days.

  21. TanGeng says:

    Please fire the modelers. 1.7 billion – wow to make that fall on tax paying sheep. That’s a terrible idea.

    Fire the modelers. That’s all I ask. Close them down. Don’t listen to them again.

  22. starzmom says:

    Nice to have them on board for a change. Wonder if any one will notice that the 1.8 billion pound loss is peanuts compared to the losses associated with climate change legislation, and climate change is less demonstrated than the very obvious ash cloud?

  23. pat says:

    It was not only the fear of the ash that motivated the MET, it is their disdain for industry and the needs of people as well.

  24. steveta_uk says:

    Lots of misinformation here, I’m afraid.

    The Met Office don’t have much say in closing airspace anywhere other than the UK, so can’t really be blamed for France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and many more countries making the same decision. They could perhaps be blamed for not releasing restrictions just one day earlier, when some of these other counties did.

    Given that the existing advice was that no ash was safe, all the Met office did was report that “there is measurable ash” – which was obviously true in Southern UK at least – just look at the cars!.

    The Gruaniad has an interesting report that it was the airlines themselves who refused to agree on a safe limit over recent years, due to concerns about getting sued if they got the limits wrong.

    And today, we have high-level haze again, back to normal – the crystal clear blue skies of the last few days probably never to be seen again (or till Katla goes off!).

  25. enneagram says:

    I would propose those Met Office kids to donate their too expensive super-computer toy to the greatest ever science blog WUWT. In exchange we’ll give’em a lot of candies. A deal?

  26. Rob says:

    Glorious vindication over computer modelling and AGW. I’m glad you guys picked up on this. Of course, no pro-warmers will see this as a general issue with GW modelling…

  27. Phil. says:

    Global airlines have lost about $1.7bn of revenue as a result of the disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption, a body has said. Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of IATA, criticised governments for the haste with which they closed airspace, and called on them to provide compensation to the airlines. “Airspace was being closed based on theoretical models, not on facts. Test flights by our members showed that the models were wrong.”

    The same models that have been successfully used by the VACCs around the world to notify airlines which routes to fly to avoid volcanic plumes! The models that in this case were proved correct by test flights. Note that 5 days after the start of the ban airlines flew in the regions where the models indicated the plume was dissipating, they didn’t test flight over the Atlantic where the models and satellites indicated fresh, more concentrated plumes. It’s a load of self-serving rubbish, in an attempt to extract some money from the goverment!
    If they believe what they’re saying have all the VACCs shut down or ignore their reports world-wide and then take the heat when a few hundred people die in an avoidable crash.

    REPLY: Phil you are full of bollocks. Observation trumps modeling any day of the week, twice on Sundays. In weather forecasting, I rely on models every day, I also rely on observations.

    If the forecast model called for, “high winds and severe thunderstorms today”, and I give my evening forecast and we have in the area nothing but “partly cloudy” I surely am not going to tell the viewers “stay indoors”.

    Observation trumps modeling. Model outputs aren’t worth crap if the observation and the forecast don’t match. The issue is overreliance on models and not enough observation. – Anthony

  28. Henry chance says:

    Packard Bell withdrew from the American market in 1999, but has remained successful in Europe under the direction of NEC.

    Many of you may remember the top seller of PC’s was Packard bell 10-15 years ago. It was of incredibly inferior quality, but it was cheaper than better names. With NEC, what could go wrong building a SUPER duper computor for The Met Office. Why am I not surprised?

    Couldn’t The Met Office buy some little off the shelf Apple and use it to miscalculate?

  29. Rob says:

    @steveta_uk

    Their models were proven wrong after only days of modelling, proven by satellite imagery. That is enough in itself.

  30. Henry chance says:

    Stop. The 1.7 billion pound loss is a loss to the top line. The people that missed flights still have tickets. The savings comes in fuel. There is no fuel burned to speak of when planes are grounded. They may have lost 20% of that higher figure. There was not a loss of 1.7 billion profit.
    Some good businesses even have insurance called business interuption insurance.

  31. Pascvaks says:

    Can’t believe I’m saying this: Nikita Kruschiev and the boys at the Ol’Kremlin had it right I guess – The West is kaputski! I guess he knew it was going to be only a matter of time before all those little spoiled baby boomer commiecrat boys and girls grew up and became good little socialists and ruined everything. Thanks Met, and all you little EU Mets, you achieved what the Ol’USSR couldn’t.

  32. enneagram says:

    Just to compensate, UK has its brand new, and respected of course by us, Merlin Wizard, in Prof.Corbyn. The only difference is that he does not wears the expected attire, but his noble figure resembles the one of his predecessor in astral science.☺

  33. Dusty says:

    That it was the Met Office aside, I don’t have a problem with computer models indicating a potential problem of this sort. I have a problem with using computer models alone to establish a problem and act on that basis the way they did. What should have happened after the Met Office got their results was to immediately send up some aircraft to verify conditions and to monitor the conditions that way.

    That they didn’t is what is appalling. Some folks in government, other than at the Met Office, and rather high on the ladder, ought to be fired for it. As for the airlines, if I were a shareholder, I’d want a few heads to roll, too, just because they didn’t do so either.

  34. Phil. says:

    stevengoddard (10:11:42) :
    If a plane had of gone down, everyone would be screaming for their heads. The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

    No the aviation authorities made that choice, based on the data provided by the VAAC. The Met Office VAAC issued a report based on the data (it collaborates with the Icelandic Met Office and Nordic Volcano Institute to determine the initial condition for the calculations). There was nothing wrong with the predictions, it’s just that some with a financial interest didn’t like the decision based on them and decided to blame the messenger. If the airline execs really believe what they’re saying they should ask governments worldwide to ‘shut down all 9 VAACs since their reports are useless’ and take potluck about avoiding plumes in the future.

  35. Jeff L says:

    The airlines wont recover a penny because of the standard it would set for when AGW are found not have been error & the associated financial damages inflicted by “bad models”. The airlines’ loss would be a drop in the bucket by comparison.

  36. Rick says:

    And yet if a plane had gone down, it would have been a 5bln loss and 16 days down instead of 6. Oh, and a few hundred lives…

    Is there any better way to try *guess* what the ash is going to do?

    Scientific or not, forecasting is still a best guess, regardless of how powerful the computers are.

  37. Phil. says:

    wsbriggs (10:12:02) :
    This should cause a great deal of rethinking on the subject of computer-based weather modeling. I’ve got a strong suspicion that the code developed by SUNY Stony Brook in the early 2000s using GPU acceleration was substantially superior to this. Los Alamos also did codes for dispersal of aerosols prior to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Both sets of code were tested to verify the results.

    Non tested code shows arrogance of the worst sort.

    No, your arrogance in making statements of this sort is far worse. The codes used by the VAACs have been and are tested.

  38. Scott says:

    Did they get it wrong? Probably.

    Did they get it wrong given the available data at the time? Maybe not.

    I think it’ll take a very good look from an outside party to answer the second question appropriately.

    -Scott

  39. Hu Duck Xing says:

    “World Airways Jet Grounded In Europe, Possible Engine Damage From Ash”

    http://www.businessinsider.com/world-airways-jet-grounded-in-europe-possible-engine-damage-2010-4

  40. DirkH says:

    I wouldn’t have expected the German government to fall for the total ineptitude of the British computer simulation craze without immediately checking the real world situation. But they did – and checked after 3 days. Our traffic minister Ramsauer is a total dork. You can’t have people like that run an industrialized nation.

    Only the Greens could have performed worse.

  41. Greg, San Diego, CA says:

    Ayn Rand presaged the risk adverse nature of the government bureaucrat in Atlas Shrugged. It is being played out in the use of the precautionary principle on an ever increasing scale by government. They are afraid to make a risk/reward judgment since they can always hide behind the lack of risk engendered by the precautionary principle. We, as a civil society, cannot continue to thrive with a government that acts this way. Initiative will be stifled, scientific inquiry will be suppressed, and civilization will wither.

    We need to break this cycle now for the future of our children and our grandchildren. We need to take civil society back from the clutches of public servants whose allegiance is only to their government employer and not for the good of the people.

  42. Invariant says:

    Remember Lorenz (1963):

    “When our results concerning the instability of nonperiodic flow are applied to the atmosphere, which is ostensibly nonperiodic, they indicate that prediction of the sufficiently distant future is impossible by any method, unless the present conditions are known exactly. In view of the inevitable inaccuracy and incompleteness of weather observations, precise very-long-range forecasting would seem to be non-existent.”

    http://eapsweb.mit.edu/research/Lorenz/Deterministic_63.pdf

    However, a numerical simulation of Navier-Stokes equations a couple of days or up to a week into the future may give accurate results, in particular with the power of modern supercomputers. Thus, I would expect that in this particular case the UK Met Office forecast may be useful. The irony is that the UK Met Office is able to do such useful very-short-range forecasts due to extensive funding as a result of the (non existent) manmade climate crisis.

  43. Rob says:

    @stevengoddard (10:11:42) :

    The point is the Met Office consistently get it wrong, and fail to ever admit their flaws. If this was a one-off, we would give them the benefit of the doubt, knowing that they would learn and improve.

  44. From my essay Precautionary Principle — Philosophical Implications
    Or “to many idiots, to few tigers” (retreadresources.com/blog)

    This all sounds like a good idea. One does not need to be 100% certain if human health or irreversible damage appears to be the result of something, to restrict that something. Put another way, in the absence of definitive science to the contrary, if in doubt ban or restrict it. If our hypothesis is: X is bad for me or others or perhaps other animals, it should not be used or ingested or what ever. We do not prove the hypothesis, we falsify it. Therefore if it can not be falsified, it should be banished. I have grossly oversimplified here. In most situations common sense generally identifies what action, if any needs be taken, at least on a personal level. Sometimes a good case can be made on a much broader scale such as societal or international levels. If one looks up the subject and reads through the literature, in general terms, the ideas expressed are probably acceptable to most. So are the general rules of conduct found in most societies, philosophies and religions. However, as expressed in the old aphorism, “the devil is in the details.”…..

    This whole situation is nothing more then those who are charged with taking some responsibility are loath to do so. They will not do, so they want only the benefits of office and refuse to accept any possible risk. What then do we pay them for? If it is to do nothing that even suggests judgment, they are grossly over paid. If it is to use judgment they are also over paid, for they have not done so.

  45. Tenuc says:

    It’s easy to be wise after the event, and because of the circumstances, the VACC’s involved in this emergency did the right thing.

    The models used to track the ash are designed to provide airlines which routes to fly which are free of volcanic plumes. Unfortunately, because of deterministic the deterministic chaos inherent in our turbulent atmosphere, they cannot give information on the density of the ash.

    Test flight where done early to test for ash, which they found thus proving the predictions made by the models were correct.

    In this situation I would much rather be someone on the ground wishing I was in the air, rather than be someone in the air wishing I was on the ground!

  46. Phil. says:

    Rick (10:58:15) :
    Is there any better way to try *guess* what the ash is going to do?

    Scientific or not, forecasting is still a best guess, regardless of how powerful the computers are.

    It’s far better than a guess, turbulent transport of particle fields is very well characterized and very well modelled. The agreement between the calculations and the satellite images illustrate this very well.

  47. rbateman says:

    There is no reasonable proximity measure to be applied in grounding an entire continent’s worth of air traffic over a plume of ash that didn’t live up to a computer’s prediction.
    This is what sensor’s are for.
    When it’s freezing outside, you know what to wear according to the temp & wind.
    Now the MET has itself caught in it’s own post-normal web.

  48. Bill Illis says:

    There is probably a tolerable level of ash that planes can fly through where there is not too much damage or risk.

    But we didn’t really know what that level is. How do you test such a thing when you are putting expensive planes and lives at risk. Even if there is a tolerable level, there is still going to be some damage and a reduction in the life-time of the engines and planes.

    But there is less ash in the air now (there is still some over the English Channel and Italy according to Modis) and the volcano was less active yesterday and today.

    Nice 24 hour animation of the volcano based on one of the webcams from astrograph (you might want to turn your sound down – astrograph has an eclectic taste in music).

  49. Steve Goddard says:

    briggs says April 21, 2010 at 10:12 am

    What kind of GPU Acceleration was SUNY using in the early 2000s? Before CUDA in 2006, everything was slow, low precision and lacking in scatter capability. Both ATI and Nvidia were calculating intrinsics using lookup tables until, a couple of years ago. You couldn’t do IEEE32 math prior to that.

  50. Mark C says:

    Lots of crapola flying about, including Anthony’s response to Phil (and I say this as a fan of WUWT and Anthony’s efforts).

    1) Operationally useful ash observations amount to diddly squat. Lack of a signature on satellite is not evidence of absence. Damaging ash concentrations are entirely possible at levels well below what can be seen on satellite.

    2) “Cope and avoid” has worked successfully for years. Most volcanic eruptions are short burps of ash lasting a couple of days at most. The long-duration ones are lower in altitude and/or less in volume. Having a sustained eruption affect most of European airspace is unprecedented. You can’t “cope and avoid” most of Europe for a week, thus the re-thinking that occurred Sun/Mon.

    It’s like how aircraft treat thunderstorms. If there’s a few out in open airspace, you go around or you orbit until it moves off the airport – picking your way through the weak spots with no radar is a loser bet. But what do you do if there are thunderstorms everywhere? Well, you hope you have a radar on board. Right now we may need an “ash radar” if we’re going to pick our way through the thin spots. There isn’t one ready for wide service.

    3) In addition to having practically no useful data on where the ash is/isn’t and how thick it is, there is little data on what is and is not safe. The “safe” level varies much by engine design – hotter, high-performance engines (fighters) have less tolerance than other engines. In the broad spectrum of engine designs in use by commercial airlines, what one engine can eat safely might kill another – we don’t effing know.

    4) Air sampling by running it through a jet engine to see if any bits stick to the insides is not very good data. Not really what I would call an “observation” – one wouldn’t say with certainty the sky is cloud-free with an old-style automated “CLR BLO 120″ report.

    We have a lot of “known unknowns” at this point. Bashing the Met Office on their ash plume forecasts, when there’s a long list of other worthwhile bashes to be had, is foolish.

    REPLY: I agree, there’s plenty to bash at the Met Office. Good summary on your part. My issue is overreliance on models and not enough observation. Rapidfire sat imagery may provide a substitute for “ash radar”. Anthony

  51. TJA says:

    Priceless!!!

  52. Anu says:

    The Governments should let people take risks.
    Fly and maybe die – just sign this release form.

    Whatever… probably only one to five planes would have ruined their engines and crashed. How many people dead ? 600? 1000? A lot more than that die just of lung cancer from smoking every year. Throw in dying from heart disease from being overweight, and fatal car crashes from bad driving habits, and this “reckless flying” choice is just a drop in the bucket compared to other choices that kill lots more people.

    Human evolution has so little to work with today – the Governments shouldn’t get in the way.

  53. PKthinks says:

    Credit to the Met Office for the good models but where was a commonsense risk assessment. This is a serious matter when hundreds of lives are at stake but it seems as if it took a long time for the panic to settle

    I like Lord Lawsons take on it,
    http://thegwpf.org/news/848-uk-government-too-cautious-over-ash-cloud-minister-admits.html

  54. Vincent says:

    I don’t think you can blame the Met models this time. It is not the case that the models were “showing” ash for 6 days over the UK and Europe that did not exist. The reality is more complex. Ash clouds were dynamic, at times moving east over Siberia leaving the UK clear, and at times moving directly over the UK. It was the constantly moving nature of the clouds that made it impossible to find windows of opportunity. Indeed, one of the repeated mantras to be heard over the 6 days was “the situation is dynamic.”

    The true problem was caused by lack of regulations on what are safe vs unsafe thresholds for ash cloud density. This was something that was eventually thrashed out by regulators, and it turns out the threshold is a lot higher than the ash cloud acheived at any time over Europe and the UK. So, the models showed the ash clouds to be real, but the regulators didn’t know they presented no danger.

  55. u.k.(us) says:

    Seems like a real dilema, ash damage can only be assertained by engine inspection after landing. The location where any damage occured is not known, and is moving.
    Heavy ash on a busy airway, could flame-out 5 jets that would all be looking to make emergency landings, possibly on the same runway at the same time.
    Stay out of the ash!
    Where ever it is?

  56. W^L+ says:

    There were some prior experiences with engine failures due to volcanic ash. I think the Met Office made the right decision.

    I do think they should have done some testing to see just how dangerous (and how long). We’d all be upset had a passenger plane crashed because of the ash.

  57. Mark C says:

    Follow-up to Anthony – two daylight looks a day, a few hours after the satellite overflight, and still no proof that the clear-looking parts are safe, is still inadequate. And the Met Office among others were using that imagery and more.

    Risk assessment is not within the met services’ purview – they aren’t on the radio or phone telling BA or its pilots where to fly. That’s a job for the transport ministries and their operational arms (national ATC or Eurocontrol). They are the interface to the airlines and pilots. The met services provide their best estimates based on the (inadequate) data and forecasts at hand. It is the up to the transport ministries and their operations to assess the risks and unknowns and devise a plan.

    The Met Office (or NWS in my case) tells me there’s a 70% chance of rain tomorrow. Does it tell me not to pour my concrete? Of course not. I make that choice.

    REPLY: No dispute there that the Met Office doesn’t make the decision, but if you have the “International Concrete Safety Agency” (fictional) telling you that you can’t make that choice because of the forecast, would you not be peeved if the forecast was wrong and the sun was shining and you had to pay idle workers and explain to customers why you can’t complete the job? – I know I would be.

    Odd thing here is that we have many more instances of airplanes flying in the presence of dangerous thunderstorms, but they give the pilot the choice. We have ships at sea that sail in the face of dangerous weather, choice goes to the captain there, perhaps on the advice of dispatch. Point is the companies and captains are allowed to make the risk assessment and choice there. Observation trumps modeling in these cases. They may use the model as guidance, the captain usually gets to make the final decision based on his/her observations, including model input via dispatch.

    Why suddenly with ash is the choice taken away in a blanket manner? It seems to me that ash avoidance can be done just as weather avoidance, given proper observations. – Anthony

  58. Al Gored says:

    I love this story.

    Models versus reality with enough cost and consequences to hopefully make people think.

  59. 1DandyTroll says:

    I give up!

    What’s so damn wrong with modeling computers?

    See what I did there?

  60. John Galt says:

    Henry chance (10:47:25) :
    Stop. The 1.7 billion pound loss is a loss to the top line. The people that missed flights still have tickets. The savings comes in fuel. There is no fuel burned to speak of when planes are grounded. They may have lost 20% of that higher figure. There was not a loss of 1.7 billion profit.
    Some good businesses even have insurance called business interuption insurance.

    Henry:

    While I can’t vouch for the 1.7 billion pound loss estimate or how it was calculated, you don’t need a super computer to know the airlines don’t make money when they don’t fly.

    Some of the business was lost permanently. People still had to man the phones and desks while no revenue came in. Overtime will be paid to try to get things back on schedule.

  61. Phil. says:

    REPLY: I agree, there’s plenty to bash at the Met Office. Good summary on your part. My issue is overreliance on models and not enough observation. Rapidfire sat imagery may provide a substitute for “ash radar”. Anthony

    Not really, the satellite images show you the footprint not the distribution with height that’s why the VAACs are so important. Here’s the MODIS shot from 11:55 Zulu yesterday, it clearly shows an ugly brown cloud of ash extending from the volcano south over the atlantic to the west of Ireland. I would think that no pilot would want to take a chance on flying through that. The point is what flight level is it at?

    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/realtime/single.php?2010110/crefl1_143.A2010110115500-2010110120000.500m.jpg

    Here’s the result of the Met Office model which matches the image well. The second panel for 12:00 Zulu shows the new plume very well but adds the information that it’s from surface to Flight Level 200, so if you’re a 777 flying at FL350 you’d like your chances, landing in southern Britain might be problematic though.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac/data/VAG_1271741319.png

    REPLY: Nobody is suggesting pilots fly through the visible ash, like thunderstorms, they can simply avoid it if they know where it is. You don’t need a model to show you where it is if you can observe it. You don’t need to ground a whole continent if you can follow the plume. -A

  62. UK John says:

    i wonder if they used Google? if you type in “volcanic ash aircraft engines” you find this from 1980 mount st helen’s eruption which should give you enough info to start to realise the risk is quite small.

    http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA366243

  63. Luc VC says:

    can anyone tell me the difference between the desert sandstorms that make my car dirty and the volcano ash? If they wanted to save lives they could have asked to leave the cars at home on sunday.

  64. Georgegr says:

    “stevengoddard (10:11:42) :
    If a plane had of gone down, everyone would be screaming for their heads. The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

    Or they could have said “we really don’t know. Our models are not good enough. We need to conduct som tests/sampling, weather ballons, whatever, not modelling to find out…”

  65. Phil. says:

    Al Gored (12:04:53) :
    I love this story.

    Models versus reality with enough cost and consequences to hopefully make people think.

    So do you think that they should shut down the Alaska VAAC after all it only gives advisories based on computer models?
    Personally I’m glad it does run its models and issue the advisories since it caused the plane I was on to divert to avoid the plumes from a Kamchatkan volcano a couple of years ago! Reality in the absence of VAACs is more incidents involving engine flameouts and possibly deaths.

    This is how the system works (and is the same for the London VAAC):

    AAWU VAAC meteorologists use input from the Alaska Volcano Observatory, satellite pictures, radar imagery and pilot reports to determine if an eruption has occurred and to understand the intensity of the eruption.
    An eruption SIGMET is issued to warn pilots about the danger.
    One or more computer models are used to forecast ash movement in the atmosphere.
    A Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement is issued describing the three-dimensional location of the ash.
    SIGMETs and advisories are updated to keep everyone current with the situation.

    REPLY: Thanks for proving my point Phil, pilots/dispatch can make the decision, as they should. As you demonstrated with personal experience, they can avoid it. If you can avoid something there is no reason to shut down everything based on model output alone. Don’t fly where the ash is is no more difficult than don’t fly into a hurricane or batch of thunderstorms. Even in severe storm situations, entire swaths of airspace are not closed, they leave it up to the pilots for risk assessment/avoidance. There’s no reason to take a blanket approach if you can track it by observation. Observation trumps modeling. I’ll trust a pilots judgment of a situation over the Met office model and/or a bureaucrat every time. – Anthony

  66. The Times argument is absurd. After 9/11, American and United Airlines both neared collapse. A couple of planes go down, and it is all over for an airline. One 9/11 lawsuit against American Airlines for one passenger was $50 million.

  67. R. de Haan says:

    I think the problem lies with the Euro Ninnies and the ICAO regulations and for an important but minor part to the Met Office!

    Please read what Oliver North had to say about the subject here:
    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/04/hook-line-and-sinker.html

    and his most recent publications! They are spot on!

  68. Georgegr (12:47:12) :

    It has only been a week. It would be impossible to gather enough data to make an intelligent decision any faster.

  69. Phil. says:

    REPLY: Nobody is suggesting pilots fly through the visible ash, like thunderstorms, they can simply avoid it if they know where it is. You don’t need a model to show you where it is if you can observe it. You don’t need to ground a whole continent if you can follow the plume. -A

    That’s the point, it isn’t visible to the pilot nor always from the satellite, on the MODIS shot it’s only visible where there are no clouds. It’s the VAAC models that give you the three-D picture of where the plume is, without it the pilot is blind. The first indication a pilot gets is often St Elmo’s fire on the windshield caused by static from the ash, followed by pitot instrument problems, engine instability, unusual engine temperature fluctuations and ulimately flameout.

    The establishments of VAACs in 1991 to issue reports of this nature is why the number of encounters has decreased. The current criticism based on financial concerns undermines a valuable safety resource and we’ll all be worse off because of it.

    As well as being a ‘despised academic’ I’m also a pilot.

  70. stevengoddard (10:11:42) :

    If a plane had of gone down, everyone would be screaming for their heads. The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

    Steven: In that case, because the situation has not changed, the aircraft should all remain grounded.
    Aye, Bob

  71. enneagram says:

    I wonder if a photo from space would have made it better. When in 2008 the Chaiten volcano erupted we all saw a lot of pictures taken from space of its ashes crossing the SA continent. What happened this time, was it there a particular interest in stopping all flights in the minds of some EU bureaucrats?

  72. UK John says:

    Phil:

    I live under where the Met ffice model said there was Ash for 6 days, but I could never detect any by observation on 5 days out of 6.

    There was very light dust on my car the first day, but after that absolutely nothing and the sky was, unusually for UK ,crystal clear on a number of days.

    So I was surprised when I saw a Met Office scientist state on TV that you wouldn’t wish to fly in UK with current atmospheric ash conditions. That is what he said!

  73. The Most Casual Observer says:

    stevengoddard (12:53:53) :

    “The Times argument is absurd. After 9/11, American and United Airlines both neared collapse. … ”

    And Lockerbie probably caused the collapse of PAN AM, and Flight 400 probably took down TWA. Airlines run on very thin profit margins.

  74. Ian says:

    Many posting here have indicated “Better safe than sorry” a sentiment with which I agree. But by the same token, shouldn’t that sentiment apply to the models that suggest human produced CO2 is largely responsible for climate change? And if not, why not?

  75. nandheeswaran jothi says:

    guys,
    stop screaming at the modelers. left to themselves, and given good collection of REAL data, they can model pretty decently. we have good, mathematical and computer tools. it is only when politics get involved, when “represntatives” ( aka political payoffs ) of countries get involved, when fake data is thrown in, when the pre-determined answer is expected……. we have problem.

    Ofcourse, Michael Mann … i cannot explain. I think he is not an honest modeler. just a political hack with a Ph.D.

  76. Al Gored says:

    Phil. (12:47:43) :

    Al Gored (12:04:53) :
    I love this story.

    Models versus reality with enough cost and consequences to hopefully make people think.

    ——-

    So do you think that they should shut down the Alaska VAAC after all it only gives advisories based on computer models?

    ——-

    The point is that because this cost so much money and grief this episode does make people think about the very obvious difference between models and reality. You are thinking about it.

    The problem has been that too many people don’t understand the difference at all. In the AGW debate some people actually take model projections and predictions as some kind of concrete ‘proof’ or reality when time and again they have proven to live up to their basic ‘garbage in, garbage out’ premise.

    And as I am sure you know, one can tweak the inputs and assumptions to make a model show anything you want it to.

    Models are often wrong but reality never is.

  77. Echoing Steve and some others, there is nothing inherently wrong about using computer models for forecasting ash dispersion. Over the short-term, these have a good track record – the parameters being modelled are limited and, unlike long-term climate models, are falsifiable. Thus, there have been several upgrades, based on real data from actual eruptions, which makes the model a fairly useful tool.

    However, from what I can ascertain, the predictions degrade with distance and time, and after about three days there are considerable uncertainties, both as to location and to particle density. Thus, it is imperative to supplement the modelling with physical measurements – using ground sensors and airborne sampling.

    This is where the UK (and the rest of Europe) seems to have been caught out. There is a serious shortage of suitably equipped and available aircraft for ash sampling, which meant that the first sampling flight by a suitable research aircraft (i.e., other than the “noddy” Do 228) was not carried out until Monday in UK airspace. It is no coincidence that, by Tuesday, the ban was lifted.

    It seems to me, therefore, that the essential flaw is that the ICAO contingency plan puts too much emphasis on modelling, and does not insist on confirmation from physical measurement. I have my suspicions that this omission is due to a reluctance to commit member states to additional monitoring costs.

    I have explored these issues here:

    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/04/struggling.html

  78. bemused says:

    Anthony -I think you’re missing the point.

    The Met Office is tasked with providing predictions of where ash concentrations will be above engine safety tolerances. It is not the Met Office’s task to decide how much ash an airliner engine can ingest before damage occurs -that lies with the manufacturers.

    At the start of this crisis, the engine tolerances as defined by the aircraft engine manufacturers was “zero”. i.e. the aircraft manufacturers said that if there is any ash at all, then it is not safe to fly.

    The Met Office did a good job at showing the areas containing ash -even though many of those areas would have very low concentrations. It would have been completely inappropriate for the Met Office to have used any threshold other than that defined by the manufacturers (they are the experts in aircraft engines).

    When the manufacturers eventually came up with the more realistic tolerence value of 0.002g/m3 then the no-fly areas shrank dramatically at the planes could start flying again.
    e.g. see the red zones in the new maps:
    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47685000/gif/_47685766_forecast_21st_1229_4663.gif

    You haven’t shown any evidence to indicate that the model ash concentration predictions were inaccurate. The problem was with a (possibly) over-cautious engine tolerance threshold as defined by the aircraft engine manufacturers.

  79. nandheeswaran jothi says:

    there are so many UAVs. they go from a few pounds to 1 ton.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/uav.htm

    Almost all of them have excellent cameras. Why could they not use those for figuring out where the clouds are, a simple jury-rigged, filter, mounted on those babies could get you the concentration, composition and size diistribution of the ash. a an army of thousand of those puppies would have been cheaper than 250Million Dollars a day.

  80. nandheeswaran jothi says:

    Anu (11:45:59) :
    i like your sarcasm. but i don’t think anybody on this site was that cavalier about “lives”. All, most of the “should have flown” crowd is saying, why are they making such momentous decisions on some Model”, that does not seem to have been validated with real-life data. That is a legitimate beef

  81. u.k.(us) says:

    The only reason a pilot flies through an area of thunderstorms is because they have radar to show them a reasonably safe path through the storms.
    If icing is forecast, they have de-icing equipment that can melt/shed accumulated ice, up to a certain point.

    Ash could be enveloped by clouds, being invisible to pilot and satellite. They have no “de-ashing” equipment.

    With the amount of air traffic over europe, you can’t have 747’s etc. running around “willy nilly”, avoiding areas of concern. That’s not how air traffic control works in crowded airspace.

    As i said earlier, quite the dilemma.

  82. enneagram says:

    nandheeswaran jothi (13:35:40) You must admit that the real (fashion) models are by far better.

  83. enneagram says:

    I GOT IT! Those models are anorexic!!

  84. Roger Knights says:

    First, it’s unlikely — I dare say impossible — that an airplane would crash from flying through light (undetectable by satellite) ash. (There have been no crashes from flying through even the heart of heavy plumes, despite some flame-outs.) The worst would have been a need for earlier maintenance on the engine. That trade-off should be the airline’s call to make.

    Second, I don’t think it was necessary to prohibit flights over areas far away from the potential cloud, like Spain, at such an early date as was done. Whoever was responsible was exhibiting hall monitor behavior (jack-in-office officiousness).

    Third, the real scandal was the failure to do pro-active and coordinated contingency planning, despite having a month’s advance warning. Hopefully, that planning will now occur.

    Fourth, an ash-cloud-monitoring drone/UAV should be designed that can fly through ash (maybe using the old V1 bladeless design) and report on its characteristics in real time, and fleets of them should be deployed in volcanic hotspots on heavily traveled airline routes. The cost/benefit ratio would be attractive, even if the project costs over 100 million $.

  85. David Corcoran says:

    “stevengoddard (10:33:04) :

    The Met Office models are actually quite good at modeling atmospheric circulation over a period of a few days.”

    This winter they failed to predict several major storms only a few days in advance, as Andrew Neil pointed out in his interview of John Hirst on January 6. That’s why the BBC has seriously and publicly considered no longer using the Met Office forcasts.

  86. Roger Knights says:

    PS: Ash-testing drones could take off from Iceland and land downwind in Scotland, Scandinavia, SE England, Germany, etc., etc. There they’d be refueled and head back to Iceland (or wherever they were needed most). Their range wouldn’t be cut in half by a need to return to a home base, IOW.

  87. Rob R says:

    My laymans experience with ash clouds from NZ volcanoes (e.g. from Mt Ruapehu) is that the airlines keep an eye on the actual ash clouds and taking into account the best available meteorological information they simply fly around them or over them. No big deal really. They only stop flying if the shit really does hit the fan and flights are cancelled only in the immediately affected area.

    This whole Icelandic ash thing seems like a massive over-reaction from where I sit.

  88. David Corcoran says:

    “Ian (13:26:51) :

    Many posting here have indicated “Better safe than sorry” a sentiment with which I agree. But by the same token, shouldn’t that sentiment apply to the models that suggest human produced CO2 is largely responsible for climate change? And if not, why not?”

    Once it was proven that the ash did not produce as much of a risk as guessed, the planes flew again. Facts trumped theory. The difference between that and AGW is this: Long term warmist predictions have been consistently wrong for the last 30 years and they never, ever, ever let facts get in the way. If anything, Dr. James Hansen’s latest prediction about sea level was more fabulous than his previous predictions and also, so far, more wrong.

    AGW alarmism is impervious to facts, and thus more like a cult. Man of course has some effect on weather, but so far, the effect is barely detectable. The long-term trends have been the same as since the LIA.

  89. Binny says:

    Before computer models they would have to have sent up piston engine aircraft (or UAVs) with beefed up air cleaners. And collected real data in real time, you know like the old scientific way.

  90. Rod Smith says:

    Guys, in my days – admittedly a long time ago – we (the USAF) had air sampling capability. I was on a sampling Recon crew for several years. We sampled for things other than volcanic ash, but I fail to see a significant difference. Particulates in the air can easily be sampled. And once you know just what is up there, and exactly where it is, short term modeling should be a great tool.

    I suspect that since atmospheric nuclear testing is a thing of he past, so are these capabilities. Anthony is absolutely on-target when rating observations as more accurate than models.

    Maybe a consortium of airlines finance sampling, and a UAV may well be the way to do it!

  91. The Met Office Forecast accuracy interval has been increasing at about 0.5 days per decade.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/verification/forecast.html

    The World Meteorological Organization compares similar statistics among national met. services around the world. These show that the Met Office is consistently one of the top two operational services in the world.

  92. Francisco says:

    Reactions to the few days of flight restrictions are wildly exaggerated, and comparing all this with the carnivalesque nonsense of the CAGW industry is rather silly. That the airlines lost money for a few days is unfortunate, but really, I can’t see what the great wise alternatives should have been, on short notice and with little data to go by. The situation of having a large amount of volcanic ash blowing steadily toward Europe was totally unprecedented. The fact that this ash poses significant risk to aircraft is well known. Nobody knew exactly how the ash was dispersing. Airplanes are not equipped with ash radars, which means pilots could fly into it without even noticing it.

    What else could they have done? Wait until something happens? It’s more than understandable that the people or entities in charge of making those decisions must not have been too thrilled about adopting a “let’s keep flying and see what happens” kind of strategy, if only for the sake of covering their own behinds. That’s perfectly understandable to me, and has nothing to do with the army of psudoscientific louts and the future carbon barons that fund them to keep peddling the catastrophic “climate change” snakeoil.

    So the airlines lost some money for a few days. Well – not the end of the world, is it? I am sure they’ll be just fine, or be bailed out when and if necessary.

  93. George E. Smith says:

    “”” len (10:11:15) :

    wish there was an edit:

    yes the models were probably too “conservative” from a safety point of view, but i’d rather have safe + all the airlines all got a free cover your *** excuse. “””

    Well we know it is possible to build an absolutely safe aeroplane. Where it gets tricky is if you also want flight with your absolutely safe aeroplane; we are not at that point in the technology yet.

  94. Phil. says:

    Rob R (14:29:26) :
    My laymans experience with ash clouds from NZ volcanoes (e.g. from Mt Ruapehu) is that the airlines keep an eye on the actual ash clouds and taking into account the best available meteorological information they simply fly around them or over them. No big deal really. They only stop flying if the shit really does hit the fan and flights are cancelled only in the immediately affected area.

    Just like the London VAAC the Wellington VAAC covers the airspace around NZ and issues SIGMETS and Volcanic Ash Advisories, according to them:

    “Volcanic ash constitutes a serious threat to aircraft operations primarily due to the effect of the corrosive gases and abrasive particles on aircraft engines and airframe. In addition to loss of engine performance or even flameout, ash effects may include instrument and radio failure, visibility problems and damage to other external flying components as well as contamination of the aircraft interior.

    Such potentially serious and expensive damage is best prevented by avoiding flying through ash altogether. Over recent years, improvements in observation networks, satellite technology, computer modelling and our increased understanding of the phenomena have led to improved volcanic ash forecasting methods.”

  95. Phil. says:

    nandheeswaran jothi (14:04:15) :
    Anu (11:45:59) :
    i like your sarcasm. but i don’t think anybody on this site was that cavalier about “lives”. All, most of the “should have flown” crowd is saying, why are they making such momentous decisions on some Model”, that does not seem to have been validated with real-life data. That is a legitimate beef

    No it’s not a legitimate beef, it’s rubbish based on a totally false premise! The models are tested against real-life data and proved to be very reliable.

  96. Phil. says:

    REPLY: Nobody is suggesting pilots fly through the visible ash, like thunderstorms, they can simply avoid it if they know where it is. You don’t need a model to show you where it is if you can observe it. You don’t need to ground a whole continent if you can follow the plume. -A

    But that’s the point Anthony, you can’t see them, the best information on the 3-D location of the plume are the model reports. That’s why IATA initiated the VAAC system, which the London VAAC is part of. If it were as simple as VFR rules, approximately stay out of clouds which you can see it would be easy (except at night of course). We’re not talking about thick black clouds like the ones emerging from the volcano.

  97. Smokey says:

    Phil,

    Some models are good, and some are not. GCMs are NG: click

  98. JinOH says:

    Time to add another 16K of memory to the Altair.

  99. u.k.(us) says:

    I’ll bet that most people that fly a lot, never knew that when coming in their destination, the pilots main concern was to get the ice off the wings and control surfaces, picked up coming through the clouds.

    Super-cooled water droplets freezing on contact.

    The engineers made an app., for that.

  100. Sam Hall says:

    bemused (13:57:18) :

    “You haven’t shown any evidence to indicate that the model ash concentration predictions were inaccurate. The problem was with a (possibly) over-cautious engine tolerance threshold as defined by the aircraft engine manufacturers.”

    There is no evidence I have seen that say the predictions were accurate either.

  101. rb Wright says:

    The Oxburgh Committee should be able to produce a credible five page report on the flight ban controversy. Plus, they can get it done in almost no time, and without interviewing any of the contending parties.

  102. R. de Haan says:

    Richard North (13:41:42) :

    Thanks, case closed!

  103. Phil. says:

    Bob (Sceptical Redcoat) (13:09:51) :
    stevengoddard (10:11:42) :

    If a plane had of gone down, everyone would be screaming for their heads. The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

    Steven: In that case, because the situation has not changed, the aircraft should all remain grounded.
    Aye, Bob

    But the situation has changed on an hourly basis, both with regard to the emission from the volcano and its distribution by the winds. Current emissions have substantially decreased since a couple of days ago:

    http://www.esa.int/images/Volcano_Iceland_19-04-2010_H.jpg

    and today:

    http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn107/Sprintstar400/crefl1_143A2010111123500-2010111124.jpg

    enneagram (13:10:37) :
    I wonder if a photo from space would have made it better. When in 2008 the Chaiten volcano erupted we all saw a lot of pictures taken from space of its ashes crossing the SA continent. What happened this time, was it there a particular interest in stopping all flights in the minds of some EU bureaucrats?

    As we did this time, see above, that’s part of the information that the London VAAC used in developing their advisories.

  104. JER0ME says:

    Henry chance (10:47:25) :

    Stop. The 1.7 billion pound loss is a loss to the top line. The people that missed flights still have tickets. The savings comes in fuel. There is no fuel burned to speak of when planes are grounded. They may have lost 20% of that higher figure. There was not a loss of 1.7 billion profit.
    Some good businesses even have insurance called business interuption insurance.

    Planes cost a lot of money even when sitting about. At an airport they cost fees, and they are essentially also not paying off the loan raised to buy them, as would pretty much always be the case except for rich privately owned airlines.

    I was wondering about the insurance side too. That will not prevent the money being paid somehow, though, it just spreads the load from the passengers who have to pay 10% extra for flights in the future to everyone having to pay 1% more on their insurance policies (%ages plucked out of thin CO2, BTW).

  105. Phil. says:

    REPLY: Thanks for proving my point Phil, pilots/dispatch can make the decision, as they should. As you demonstrated with personal experience, they can avoid it.

    Based on the model data just as in this case, if the plume in that case had been over Anchorage airport it would have been shut down.

    If you can avoid something there is no reason to shut down everything based on model output alone. Don’t fly where the ash is is no more difficult than don’t fly into a hurricane or batch of thunderstorms.

    In the absence of the model data that isn’t possible, you can see a hurricane or a thunderstorm.

    Even in severe storm situations, entire swaths of airspace are not closed, they leave it up to the pilots for risk assessment/avoidance. There’s no reason to take a blanket approach if you can track it by observation. Observation trumps modeling. I’ll trust a pilots judgment of a situation over the Met office model and/or a bureaucrat every time. – Anthony

    I’d suggest that the families of the occupants of Continental Flight 3407, for example, would disagree with you and wish that the FAA would bite the bullet and institute the recommendations of the NTSB regarding flight into known icing. It’s being held up “pending economic analysis”!

  106. brc says:

    Henry chance (10:47:25) :

    Stop. The 1.7 billion pound loss is a loss to the top line… (etc)

    No, you Stop. You don’t understand Airline business models.

    Anytime a plane is sitting on the ground, it is not earning revenue and therefore is costing the company money, both in airport fees, depreciation and interest costs. Even if it is fully owned (not leased or on borrowed money) then it still represents a multi-million dollar asset not being used. Like a hotel sitting empty for a week. The airlines cannot get back the lost capacity – you try earning your full salary on two days a week. Now they have the fly all the existing ticket holders (that still want to go) and turn away new customers that can’t get onto a full plane. They will have to refund some cancelled tickets, and in some cases will have to pay other airlines to take their excess capacity. This will play out for some weeks until the backlogs are cleared. There will then be a follow-on period where people are wary about flying and will choose to stay at home, use video conferencing, or any other number of substitutes for flying.

    No insurance company is going to pick up the tab for this : it’s excluded under ‘act of god’. Not the airlines, the travellers, probably not even the people in Iceland whose cars have been wrecked by ingesting ash. Even if by some miracle an underwriter got it wrong and included volcanic ash contamination, the airlines will still pick up the bill for the insurance through increased premiums for the next x years, plus you’ll find volcanic ash events excluded from future policies explicitly.

  107. LowerThanPun says:

    The Met Office Forecast accuracy interval has been increasing at about 0.5 days per decade.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/verification/forecast.html

    HA HA HA HA HA HA *gasp*
    ah lubs me some hockey stick

  108. Keith Minto says:

    I was alarmed to see vision of a 747 taking off from Heathrow with vortices of dust swirling back from their engines. This was dust apparently on the runway that had settled.
    I guess the big question is, how much of this dust remains in the air ? Is it layered by particle size according to altitude?
    One way to do a rough check is to install a clean air filter on your car and drive for a day, tape off a small area for comparison.

  109. Bulldust says:

    Has anyone calculated how much CO2 was not emitted as a result of the planes being grounded? It was a dry run for the cap-n-trade, no?

  110. Keith Minto says:

    According to http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=17964&channel=6&title=More+than+1.5M+tonnes+of+carbon+saved+by+airline+grounding+

    1.5 million tons with the volcano emitting 40k tons in the same period (one week).
    But more ferries, trains and cars were running that sort of made up for it.

    A comment was made today that Qantas was losing $2m per day and it only takes 8 days like this to equal ex CEO Geoff Dixon’s payout. Puts a new perspective on things, plus the savings on Avgas.

    Instead of Qantas supporting their passengers, they stuffed up the PR exercise by complaining about the cost.

  111. Mike says:

    @Henry chance (10:20:50) : “A £30 million supercomputer, designed to predict climate change, has been named as one of Britain’s worst polluters in the latest embarrassment for the Met Office.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/6098859/The-Met-Office-super-computer-by-numbers.html

    This is a false comparison. One should not compare the MET’s building with other office buildings, but with production facilities like factories. The MET’s computers produce a product – information. (Whether people agree with the results or how they are applied is another matter.)

  112. R. de Haan says:

    Bulldust (17:43:14) :

    “Has anyone calculated how much CO2 was not emitted as a result of the planes being grounded? It was a dry run for the cap-n-trade, no?”

    The currently promoted greenhouse theory is dead and its consequences have to be removed at once.

    “To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”

    Charles Darwin

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=5583

  113. wesley bruce says:

    People haven’t realised yet. The media is silent but people will have died because of the no fly rules. Most organs for organ donations go by air. Ground transport is too slow. A percentage of people on waiting lists for organ transplants die while they wait. There will have been several dozen death in Europe as a result. If the met office gets sued fro damages you will see subsiquent legal actionson these deaths. It will take a few weeks, end of the month for anyone to notice but someone will notice a bump in statisics in mortality of people on organ waiting lists.

    The no fly will have also fouled up hundreds of chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapy treatments. These drugs and isotopes are time sensitive and generally go by air. No one is talking about this aspect.

  114. Mike says:

    “But scientists at Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology said an initial analysis of samples collected over Zurich last weekend by special weather balloons concluded that safety concerns were warranted and the volcano could be getting more dangerous.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_iceland_volcano;_ylt=Ao2yaWBf0FQrOItYgbiZpA4b.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTM3aDNoYWpiBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNDIyL2V1X2ljZWxhbmRfdm9sY2FubwRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzIEcG9zAzIEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yaWVzBHNsawNyZWNyaW1pbmF0aW8-

  115. Jeremy says:

    Have any of the propeller heads at the Met Office heard of “Hamatan”?

    I suggest someone look into it because sand filled skies are a common state of affairs in West Africa around Xmas….yep, yes sirree …this happens EVERY year! No point in washing your car during Hamatan as it is yellow from dusty sand the next day.

    Do these Met Office boffins live in caves?

    I am appalled.

    We were flying regularly during Hamatan in West Africa even though visibility was terrible some days.

  116. Mike says:

    @ wesley bruce (19:09:01) : “People haven’t realised yet. The media is silent but people will have died because of the no fly rules. Most organs for organ donations go by air. ”

    This is a good point. But, I don’t think it is enough to justify resuming commercial flights in dangerous conditions (if they exist). I do wonder if government have plans for providing emergency transportation of donated organs or other medically vital supplies during such emergencies.

  117. AnonyMoose says:

    Hey, someone’s trying to use instruments to measure ash! Are they allowed to do that?

    LIDAR being used to detect volcanic ash and an international network might be able to monitor the ash.

  118. Tony says:

    Err, guys. You’ve fallen for the oldest MSM trick in the book. It is not a 1.7b loss. How can it be when they were previously reporting a 128m loss/day. The newspaper says “Global airlines have lost about $1.7bn of revenue”. Revenue is ticket sales. That does not account for fuel, maintenance and other direct costs associated with flying a plane. For example, Ryanair doesn’t even pay its First Officers a penny if they don’t fly. Using knowledge of my airline’s costs I would guestimate that the actual loss was about 400m.

    As for the story about all the decision based on the computer model, we’ve been duped. It is rubbish. The Met Office created a forecast using a computer model, like they do for all forecasts including aviation sigwx, etc. This was combined with sample flights, observations on the ground and satellite imagery.

    The fact is the met office was correct, there was an ash cloud over Europe so what is the problem? The Met Office has become a political tool to extract money and compensation from the governments by the airlines and a means to make a story by the MSM.

    We’re all sceptics of MSM here. Don’t be a sucked in just because they are slating the Met Office. Look past the news, research and look at the facts. As is so often the case, the public story is quite different from reality.

  119. Keith Minto says:

    As for damage due to ash, this report by Volvo sums up the problem very well.
    http://www.volvoaero.com/volvoaero/global/en-gb/newsmedia/press_releases/actual/Pages/Default.aspx

    Very abrasive,clogging and,due to sulphuric acid,corrosive.

  120. u.k.(us) says:

    From the headline:
    “Airlines Blame Flawed Computer Modeling For Up To $1.7 Billion Loss”
    ===============
    BTW : Taxpayers to pay the bill.

    Who the [snip]
    else would pay!!

    Who the [snip] else, could afford it.

  121. Pete H says:

    Jeremy (19:31:05) :
    Have any of the propeller heads at the Met Office heard of “Hamatan”?

    I asked the same question a few threads back Jeremy. Having spent 12 years flying back and forth to Nigerian Oilfield from the UK. From November to February, many daily flights made were through the Sahara sand storms blowing down the West of Africa. We would then use helicopters to take us out to the rigs and it was only low visibility (.5km) that forced flights to divert or be cancelled.

    I have not idea as to the abrasive difference but it would now seem that the engine manufacturers have now issued data as to the amount the engines can ingest per second without harm/damage.

    Me? Just glad I do not have a flight till the 5th May to a place out of the cloud and away from the poor sods trying to get home!

  122. Al Gore's Holy Hologram says:

    And all because the European Commission and British government is full of nannies who want to tell you what to do, how to think, and how to live.

    Risk aversion and precautionary principles basically boil down to giving them control of your lives and paying huge taxes for their spending pleasure.

  123. Tony says:

    @Pete H
    “Have any of the propeller heads at the Met Office heard of “Hamatan”?”

    And Ghibilli and Scirroco! Somewhat outside of knowledge area, but I would suggest that the helicopters were equipped for their mission with appropriate training, procedures and maintenance. You typical European airline would ever plan would plan operations in a sandstorm!

    Another important consideration is that ash clouds also tend have a derth of oxygen which is what contributes to the flameout scenarios.

    @Al gore…
    “Risk aversion and precautionary principles basically boil down to giving them control of your lives and paying huge taxes for their spending pleasure.”

    What do you mean by risk aversion? There is always risk, but the question is can it be managed or mitigated? If not then the risk is unquantifiable and thus unacceptable. There is no mitigation strategy with volcanic ash, other than to avoid it completely.

  124. P Wilson says:

    Yesterday during an interview on the BBC News, the head of the authority that banned flights in the UK stated that they had a “change of heart” during negotiations with British Airways. Hitherto they were adamant that the ban should continue on the basis of computer modelling.

    Thia ia an admission that computer modelling is irrelevant to real world. In otehr words, a “change of heart” is all that is needed to stop airplanes from being affected by volcanic ash. If a “change of heart” hadn’t occurred then airplanes wouldn’t be safe.

    I find it utterly amazing that emotions determine how safe aircraft are during volcanic eruptions.

    One isn’t just sceptical of the media. One is also convinced that scientific procedure has become so corrupt that neither climate scientists nor modellers of the atmosphere ahve any grap of what is possible and what isn’t possible, and this ignorance isn’t confined only to governmetn backed climate propagandists.

  125. u.k.(us) says:

    From the headline:
    “Airlines Blame Flawed Computer Modeling For Up To $1.7 Billion Loss”
    ====================
    So, airlines want 1.7 billion, of taxpayer dollars due to a forecast produced by government forecasters.

    I’m sure the taxpayers, might agree with your 1.7 billion dollar request.

    Only in your dreams, could airlines make 1.7 billion dollars in a week.

    Sorry: but I’m a skeptic, voter and taxpayer.

  126. Bernd Felsche says:

    Keith Minto (20:02:40) :

    You provided a link to the professional bed-wetters at Volvo explaining why jet engines can’t fly through ash clouds.

    Empirical evidence that says otherwise was provided at UK John (12:30:39), more than 7 hours before you posted, referring to practical experience of aircraft ops during the Mt St Helens eruption.

    Does NOBODY read what’s been posted to the thread already?

    Consider also that sulphur simply may not be that big a problem because the engines are constantly exposed to sulphur anyway; the jet fuel contains up to 3000 ppm(m) of it.
    http://www.easa.europa.eu/ws_prod/r/doc/research/EASA_SULPHUR_Project_11-01-2010.pdf

  127. Keith Minto says:

    Bernd Felche (21:28:41)
    My summary of a Professional Pilots web site that I use is that, yes, there is controversy and as I said before, if visual flight rules are enabled and volcanic ash is not visible to the eye, then the aircraft will fly but damage will accumulate in the engines and sensors and shorten their life. This reduced operational life of an aircraft will vary with the ash intensity and flight duration. So each aircraft will differ in its operational life and who will determine that damage on that craft?. Will each aircraft be stripped down to check for damage? of course not, only the scheduled maintenance period check will apply.

    Would you like to roll the dice with an aircraft effected like this on your next flight?

    One pilot expressed his frustration well ……

    The problem is real. Yes, I know volcanoes erupt all over the world. I know that there are sand storms in the Desert and dust in the air. I know intrepid pilots fly around erupting volcanoes. I know that some European airports remained open. The problem however is that this particular dust from this particular volcano thanks to this particular weather system stuck itself in large quantities over Britain, and it has the capacity to bugger up very expensive jet engines that are not quickly replaceable by the manufacturers. I know you paid your Twenty quid to get to Paris, but I am not going to risk wrecking Ten million dollars worth of engines to get you there today.

  128. The “real world” runs off all kinds of computer models. Whatever electronic device you are reading this on was designed using computer models.

  129. pft says:

    Closing airspace was a prudent decision in a day and age where we are virtually strip searched on flights to the US in the 1 in a hunderd million chance somebody will bring onboard something which could blow up the airplane, and be competent enough to do it.

    I expect airlines to have insurance for stuff like this. If not, it is the same stupidity which led them to not have decent locks on cockpit doors.

    Anyone suggesting we should trust in the airlines for safety has been asleep for the past 10 years. I suspect though that left to it’s own devices even they would have suspended travel. They are just looking for a handout, and the gullible public may even swallow it.

  130. Phil. says:

    Bernd Felsche (21:28:41) :
    Keith Minto (20:02:40) :

    You provided a link to the professional bed-wetters at Volvo explaining why jet engines can’t fly through ash clouds.

    Empirical evidence that says otherwise was provided at UK John (12:30:39), more than 7 hours before you posted, referring to practical experience of aircraft ops during the Mt St Helens eruption.

    Does NOBODY read what’s been posted to the thread already?

    Apparently you don’t if you think jet engines can operate in ash clouds.

    At Mt St Helens a 727 and a DC-8 encountered ash clouds, both airplanes experienced damage to their windshields and other systems, but both managed to land safely. A BA 747 over Indonesia encountered ash at 36,000′ and lost all engines, it was able to relight 3 of the engines at ~12,000′ after a fairly rapid descent. It was able to land at Jakarta with no visibility through the windshield, no landing lights and a malfunctioning pitot static system! All the engines were replaced plus the fuel tanks and other systems. Shortly thereafter a Singapore Airlines 747 lost its engines at altitude and ended up landing with two engines. A 747 lost all engines due to a Mt Redoubt eruption with similar results, they managed to restart the engines with one minute to spare!
    The airline with the most experience of volcano ash is Alaska Airlines, as a result of their experience their planes never take off, fly or land in ash. If Alaska Airlines can’t stay at least 35 miles away from ash, it doesn’t fly. And if it’s nighttime and pilots can’t see or if the airline isn’t sure of the actual winds aloft, it won’t operate.

  131. gianmarko says:

    ok so there was ash. then, where did it go? the airspace here (switzerland) was closed but no has whatsoever has deposited on the ground. none. and even a tiny amount of dust shows very well when it concentrates on a flat surface.
    the ash concentration was grossly overestimated and the reaction was nonsensical.
    simply, aeronautic regulators, which are the worst type of bureaucracies, cannot stand the thought of heavy pieces of metal suspended in the sky. these things are a constant threat to their career and must be grounded as much as possible. a continuous attempt, through stricter and costier regulations, is under way to eliminate this liability. ash cloud was just another excuse to accelerate the process.
    the final goal is to reach the objective of zero risk in aviation, which can be achieved only with zero flying.
    airlines are the ones who have everything to lose, and have the instruments and competence to deal with things like vulcanic eruption. no airline wants to ruin massively expensive engines, let alone lose aircrafts, passengers and crews. in italy airspace was closed even for piston driven light aviation, which is ridicolous and shows that the problem is not the risk of flight, but the lazy, useless auronautic agencies bureaucrats, bent on reaching retirement age with the least amount of work and responsibility.

  132. Gareth says:

    Mark C (11:34:25) : 1) Operationally useful ash observations amount to diddly squat. Lack of a signature on satellite is not evidence of absence. Damaging ash concentrations are entirely possible at levels well below what can be seen on satellite.

    The ICAO manual for dealing with volcanic ash is on the internet. It states:

    “Moreover, the first two or three days following an explosive eruption are especially critical because high concentrations of ash comprising particles up to ~10 μm diameter could be encountered at cruise levels some considerable distance from the volcano. Beyond three days, it is assumed that if the ash is still visible by eye or from satellite data, it still presents a hazard to aircraft.”

    Therefore if it is not visible by eye or on satellite the ICAO recommendations are that it is not a danger. And they should know. They wrote the manual. The ash cloud was visible over the North of Scotland. That should have been the only part of British airspace which aircraft were dissuaded from using.

    UK airspace was closed without good reason. European airspace was closed without good reason. Britain’s best equipped aircraft for detecting these things (BAe-146 G-LUXE) was undergoing maintenance so we were relying on a Dornier Do228. When it first went out it couldn’t find the ash cloud as it wasn’t where the Met Office said it should be.

    Models are useful tools but they can only ever stand a chance of being accurate if there is plenty of real world data being constantly fed into them. This data is what has been lacking, making the Met Office projections get less accurate as the days passed. These were passed on to the CAA who appear to not have known what to do.

    The ICAO has been running exercises in dealing with volcanic ash, one as recently as March this year. The procedure for dealing with volcanic eruptions is an exclusion zone around the volcano 120km in radius (or centred 60km downwind). As the ash cloud extends beyond the exclusion zone it is for airlines and air traffic controllers to work together to make sure they don’t fly through it or above it. You can fly below it though. But all that requires observations as well as models. The various European met offices were seemingly ill-prepared for getting up in aircraft and finding the cloud.

  133. Larry says:

    We pay for a computer model to predict when you can fly. That computer model should make the best estimate, with a level of certainty, and then be compared with known events. If the models prediction is shown to be seriously out it should be ignored. The argument that they would be blamed if they said you could fly is irrelevant – the reason why that is an issue is presumably because they have oversold their accuracy to get funding. The model should give the most accurate prediction it can, but a disclaimer should give the degree of certainty of the predictions. If you are scared of being sued for a plane going down, don’t make models predicting when people can fly. It almost seems like governments just allocate funding, and have no mechanism for checking fitness for purpose. Considering the importance of the decision, have they shown accuracy at predicting the ash outside of european airspace? Were they unusually inaccurate this time? If they can’t answer that question then they haven’t been doing their job.

  134. Noelene says:

    Keith Minto
    What does it have to do with the pilot if the engine is worth 10 million dollars?He doesn’t pay for it,he doesn’t lose any pay either,when stranded.
    As an aside I am wondering if the windmills all over Europe had an effect on where the ash went?They do disrupt wind patterns.

  135. Tonyb2 says:

    Looks like the Met Office’s computer not only generates carbon dioxide it also makes volcanic ash. It’s becoming self fulfilling.

    Anthony I couldn’t agree more with your view of theoretical models versus observation and proper analysis. For models to be valuable they have to be properly validated and predictive: something the Met Office and the like seem unable to do or grasp the significance of. When did you last see a really predictive climate model!

    Tony Berry

  136. Pamela Gray says:

    I agree with Anthony and Phil in this case.
    re Anthony: The insurance companies run the show and do everything possible to reduce risk to 0%. Decisions made flow from that or else we can’t buy insurance. Therefore agencies have an overwhelming incentive to take no risks. This scenario will only worsen if post-normal science gets in on the act.

    re Phil: Pilots can no longer fly around stuff on their own. The skies are so bloody crowded that meandering about avoided risks will likely result in traffic chaos and plane parts falling from the sky, let alone body parts.

  137. A C Osborn says:

    stevengoddard (10:11:42) : The Met Office is in a no-win situation, and chose “better safe than sorry.”

    Under that excuse we had better Stop all CO2 Emmissions today just in case the AGW crowd are right.
    Flawed Science is Flawed Science.
    Come on Steve they had no emperical data whatsoever and no intention of getting any. The airlines had to force their hands.

  138. A C Osborn says:

    Tony (19:56:18) : can you provide the evidence that the UK flew test flights please?

  139. Richard Sharpe says:

    stevengoddard (22:31:11) said:

    The “real world” runs off all kinds of computer models. Whatever electronic device you are reading this on was designed using computer models.

    I think you are vastly overstating the case. At most they (the various chips) were designed with the aid of a bunch of simulation, both functional and timing, and maybe there was a process simulation.

    However, these simulations are vastly simpler than those to do with the atmosphere. They are mostly event driven and do not have to solve enormous 3D fluid dynamics problems.

  140. Phil. says:

    Pamela Gray (06:39:23) :
    re Phil: Pilots can no longer fly around stuff on their own. The skies are so bloody crowded that meandering about avoided risks will likely result in traffic chaos and plane parts falling from the sky, let alone body parts.

    Pilots have autonomy in the case of an emergency, if a plane flies into an ash plume the procedure is to shut the engines down to idle and make a descending 180º turn (and other associated actions). Of course also get on the horn and declare an emergency to Control, who will clear airspace for you and also reroute other traffic where necessary.

  141. R. de Haan says:

    Eyjafjallajökull flight cancellations: How the right decision is being made to look wrong
    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2010/04/eyjafjallajokull_flight_cancel.php

  142. A. Murtha says:

    To fly or not and how close can you be.

    Here is a paper that I think demonstrates the difficulty for the aircraft operators and air controllers.

    http://www.alpa.org/portals/alpa/volcanicash/03_NASADC8AshDamage.pdf

  143. Francisco says:

    Tony (19:56:18) :

    Err, guys. You’ve fallen for the oldest MSM trick in the book. It is not a 1.7b loss. How can it be when they were previously reporting a 128m loss/day. The newspaper says “Global airlines have lost about $1.7bn of revenue”. Revenue is ticket sales. That does not account for fuel, maintenance and other direct costs associated with flying a plane. For example, Ryanair doesn’t even pay its First Officers a penny if they don’t fly. Using knowledge of my airline’s costs I would guestimate that the actual loss was about 400m.
    ================

    It would be interesting, to gain some perepective, to compare those 400m with the annual package of just the top 5 executives in each and all of the affected companies combined.

  144. wsbriggs says:

    Steve Goddard (11:27:17) :
    “What kind of GPU Acceleration was SUNY using in the early 2000s? Before CUDA in 2006, everything was slow, low precision and lacking in scatter capability. Both ATI and Nvidia were calculating intrinsics using lookup tables until, a couple of years ago. You couldn’t do IEEE32 math prior to that.”

    Actually at that time Compaq/HP was working on a clustered workstation product with an FPGA base board which extracted data out of the GPU. They were using a combination of pre-CUDA code (yes it was difficult, but it was possible – see a number of papers at Eurographics 2002), and the compositing network on the cluster to do the simulation.

    At that time, yours truly felt much like a man baying in the wilderness when talking about GPGPU to anyone. It’s much different today.

  145. RichieP says:

    I suspect that the real reasoning behind the UK government’s change of mind was the fact that the press was carrying stories of German aircraft overflying Britain (which were seen by many people) whilst all our planes were still grounded. Politicians couldn’t pretend any longer that all was exactly as they spun it and simply had to react. Our current government is enormously risk-averse and Brown is renowned as a ditherer, so it’s no surprise either that nothing very direct was done to investigate the problem through observation in the interim between the eruption and the resumption of flights. Walsh’s decision to send 24 (so I believe) aircraft to Britain and demand landing inside British airspace also must have had a huge influence on decision-making. Watching those flights shifting themselves around Britain before they finally came in certainly suggested that some serious arm-twisting was going on.

  146. SemiChemE says:

    Richard Sharpe (08:04:40) said:

    I think you are vastly overstating the case. At most they (the various chips) were designed with the aid of a bunch of simulation, both functional and timing, and maybe there was a process simulation.

    However, these simulations are vastly simpler than those to do with the atmosphere. They are mostly event driven and do not have to solve enormous 3D fluid dynamics problems.

    As someone who has been involved in the development of 3D chemically reactive fluid dynamics models of various processes used in the Semiconductor industry (SiGe deposition, HfO2 ALD, Si nanocrystal growth, Ion implantation, Reactive Ion Etching, PVD, etc…) I would beg to differ. Sure, the atmosphere is much more complicated than the few liters of highly controlled reaction volume modeled in a typical semiconductor industry equipment simulation (usually limited to the laminar flow regime). However, that just frees us to include significantly more microscopic detail in our models (larger reaction mechanisms, use of ab-initio methods, Quantum chemistry, micro-loading effects, etc…). It also means our simulations are significantly more accurate and useful!

    Model complexity for any sufficiently complex system is usually governed more by the computational capabilities of the model developer than the complexity of the system being modeled. In other words, the models include limiting assumptions, which are chosen so as to make the problem solvable with the available computational resources. Since the companies doing this kind of work have names like Intel and IBM and they work in collaboration with the National Labs in several countries, the available computational resources are significant.

  147. RichieP says:

    The Sun (not a paper I’d normally recommend or even link to) is running this story of possible ash problems with a civil passenger flight, with an audio recording of the pilot’s comms with the ground:

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2942884/UK-flight-is-aborted-after-pilot-smells-volcanic-ash.html

  148. Richard Sharpe says:

    SemiChemE (14:45:08) said:

    Richard Sharpe (08:04:40) said:

    I think you are vastly overstating the case. At most they (the various chips) were designed with the aid of a bunch of simulation, both functional and timing, and maybe there was a process simulation.

    However, these simulations are vastly simpler than those to do with the atmosphere. They are mostly event driven and do not have to solve enormous 3D fluid dynamics problems.

    As someone who has been involved in the development of 3D chemically reactive fluid dynamics models of various processes used in the Semiconductor industry (SiGe deposition, HfO2 ALD, Si nanocrystal growth, Ion implantation, Reactive Ion Etching, PVD, etc…) I would beg to differ.

    Thanks for enlightening me. After I wrote that I also figured that there would have to be a thermal simulation of the chip as well to get some idea of the heat dissipation to be expected and look at optimizing it for better thermal characteristics.

  149. GabbroGuy says:

    Gareth (01:47:17) : “Moreover, the first two or three days following an explosive eruption are especially critical because high concentrations of ash comprising particles up to ~10 μm diameter could be encountered at cruise levels some considerable distance from the volcano. Beyond three days, it is assumed that if the ash is still visible by eye or from satellite data, it still presents a hazard to aircraft.”

    It seems like from the rest of the posting that Gareth thinks that 2-3 days after the eruption started that everything was good as long as the plume could not be seen visually. That’s a logical reading and conclusion, but based on a mis-interpretation. That timing is for each discrete piece of the plume. So, if one short eruption sends a plume downwind, then after 3 days if you can’t see it the assumption is that the particles have all fallen out or diffused so much as to not be a hazard.

    That was not the case in this event. Almost-continuous explosions kept feeding fresh material into European airspace that was always less than 3 days old. If they hadn’t abandoned ICAO rules then the waiting period after the last plume was visible overhead would have been at least another day to allow fallout and dispersion.

  150. Roger Knights says:

    Phil.

    If Alaska Airlines can’t stay at least 35 miles away from ash, it doesn’t fly. And if it’s nighttime and pilots can’t see or if the airline isn’t sure of the actual winds aloft, it won’t operate.

    Cool — so let’s put them in charge of future Icelandic-ash-related flight no-go zones.

    I doubt that they’d have issued such wide-area shut-downs, nor issued them so far in advance of ash’s reaching certain areas, based on their 35-mile rule.

    Interviews with Alaska Airlines ash experts and pilots, and extracts from their pilot’s and scheduler’s manuals, should be sought as part of any follow-up inquiry or policy-making decision in Europe.

  151. nevket240 says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601124&sid=aspZxMDffsgs

    Gee. who would have thought this was possible? too much modelling and not enough reality.
    guesses anyone ??
    regards

  152. larry says:

    stevengoddard (22:31:11) :
    The “real world” runs off all kinds of computer models. Whatever electronic device you are reading this on was designed using computer models.

    Yes, of course it does. The question is how have they been compared to the real world, and how deterministic the system you are modelling is. The cost of quality assurance on the kind of models you are talking about is huge and the systems are deterministic and people that make mistakes very quickly find out about it.

    Try missing a not gate of custom chip and see how much you shave of the bottom line of the company you are working for. Are you seriously trying to compare those kind of models with the ones produced by the met office?

  153. Bemused, I have considerable difficulty believing that engine manufacturers did not know how much ash an engine can tolerate, given the experience with Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Redoubt, and other volcanoes where some airplanes were damaged from flying in or ground operations in heavy ash and others were not from flying in light visible ash. (The CAA is quoted as saying the engine manufacturers said not to fly in ash.) Note too that the eventual UK CAA second decision was to require precautions at a medium level of concentration.

    Also note that there is an economic question – do you incur extra maintenance cost to get your passengers home?

Comments are closed.