Science Systems and Applications, Inc. - Science and Technology with Passion

ozone Measurements and Volcanic Ash

The danger posed by ash from volcanic eruptions is not limited to areas that get covered with it. Ash
that is thrown higher into the atmosphere, sometimes even into the stratosphere, poses a severe risk to planes by clogging (and shutting down) engines and making it impossible to see out of deeply pitted windshields.

To monitor ash from volcanic eruptions, SSAI scientists worked with NASA colleagues to develop the capability to process data directly broadcast to ground receiving stations from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), instruments found onboard the polar-orbiting Aura and Suomi NPP satellites. Although principally designed to measure and monitor the ozone layer, UV measurements from these instruments are also used to produce the Aerosol Index, which is a product designed to detect and track UV-absorbing aerosols such as smoke, dust, and volcanic ash.

Two ground stations in particular, one in Finland run by the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and one in Alaska run by the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA), provide full coverage of areas containing some of the most congested air routes and over many of the most active volcanoes in the world. The information provided by stations such as these is used directly to ensure the safe passage of aircraft in the event of volcanic eruptions. 

The eruption of the Sangeang volcano in Indonesia in May 2014 disrupted flights to and from Australia. The image above shows ash as seen by the OMPS Aerosol Index superimposed on a MODIS RGB image. An AI value of 8 indicates a dense ash cloud high in the atmosphere.Ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland severely disrupted flight to and from Europe for weeks in 2010. This image shows ash over the Atlantic, drifting toward northern Europe, as seen by the OMI AI superimposed over a MODIS image. Near-real-time processing of OMI and OMPS data by FMI and GINA provides valuable information needed to route and reroute air traffic safely to avoid ash clouds from eruptions. Left: The eruption of the Sangeang volcano in Indonesia in May 2014 disrupted flights to and from Australia.
The image above shows ash as seen by the OMPS Aerosol Index superimposed on a MODIS RGB image.
An AI value of 8 indicates a dense ash cloud high in the atmosphere.
Right: Ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland severely disrupted flight to and from Europe for
weeks in 2010. This image shows ash over the Atlantic, drifting toward northern Europe, as seen by the OMI AI
superimposed over a MODIS image. Near-real-time processing of OMI and OMPS data by FMI and GINA provides
valuable information needed to route and reroute air traffic safely to avoid ash clouds from eruptions.
Credit: NASA GSFC