Validation of the FALL3D ash dispersion model using observations of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash clouds
Folch, A., Costa, A. and Basart, S. (2012) Validation of the FALL3D ash dispersion model using observations of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash clouds. Atmospheric Environment, 48 (S1). pp. 165-183. ISSN 1352-2310
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2011.06.072
During April-May 2010 volcanic ash clouds from the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano reached Europe causing an unprecedented disruption of the EUR/NAT region airspace. Civil aviation authorities banned all flight operations because of the threat posed by volcanic ash to modern turbine aircraft. New quantitative airborne ash mass concentration thresholds, still under discussion, were adopted for discerning regions contaminated by ash. This has implications for ash dispersal models routinely used to forecast the evolution of ash clouds. In this new context, quantitative model validation and assessment of the accuracies of current state-of-the-art models is of paramount importance. The passage of volcanic ash clouds over central Europe, a territory hosting a dense network of meteorological and air quality observatories, generated a quantity of observations unusual for volcanic clouds. From the ground, the cloud was observed by aerosol lidars, lidar ceilometers, sun photometers, other remote-sensing instru- ments and in-situ collectors. From the air, sondes and multiple aircraft measurements also took extremely valuable in-situ and remote-sensing measurements. These measurements constitute an excellent database for model validation. Here we validate the FALL3D ash dispersal model by comparing model results with ground and airplane-based measurements obtained during the initial 14e23 April 2010 Eyjafjallajökull explosive phase. We run the model at high spatial resolution using as input hourly- averaged observed heights of the eruption column and the total grain size distribution reconstructed from field observations. Model results are then compared against remote ground-based and in-situ aircraft-based measurements, including lidar ceilometers from the German Meteorological Service, aerosol lidars and sun photometers from EARLINET and AERONET networks, and flight missions of the German DLR Falcon aircraft. We find good quantitative agreement, with an error similar to the spread in the observations (however depending on the method used to estimate mass eruption rate) for both airborne and ground mass concentration. Such verification results help us understand and constrain the accuracy and reliability of ash transport models and it is of enormous relevance for designing future operational mitigation strategies at Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers.