NILU has world-leading expertise in this research area and works internationally in close cooperation with ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization), the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
Ash clouds from volcanoes pose an acute threat to flight safety, because the ash can cause engine failure and/or destroy on-board instrumentation.
Rapid and reliable detection of volcanic ash is necessary for regulating air traffic during eruptions. Reliable dispersion models that can predict ash transport are also needed. Given that ash clouds can have major economic impact if they lead to long-term airspace closures, good quantitative data for ash concentrations are vital.
Research on atmospheric transport modelling is led by NILU’s Atmosphere and Climate Department, which has developed a model called FlexPart. A central research focus in recent years has been to develop a methodology that actively incorporates available observations into model runs, to improve the dispersion modelling. NILU assists Norwegian authorities with advice in situations when there is ash in European airspace.