16 April 2010
The Iceland volcano that has shut down the air traffic over much of Europe sent ash clouds high again today and the news is not good. The upper level winds are likely to continue to blow the ash toward the UK and Northern Europe.
Most of the ash is in a layer from 20,000 to 35,000 feet. Since most aircraft fly around 35,000 feet across the Atlantic, it is impacting almost all of the transatlantic flights. The ash is hard to see on weather satellites but the thicker portion of the plume is visible.
The UK Met Office has been using LIDAR to measure the intensity and location of the cloud over the UK. LIDAR is like radar but uses laser light instead of radio waves.
Forecasting the ash can be broken down into three problems.
1. Where is it now?
2. Where is it going?
3. Is there more coming up?
Unfortunately, there IS more coming up.
The ash cloud reached 24,000 feet today. The pic above shows where it is now, and the image below shows where it is likely to go. This forecast map is for the winds at around 30,000 feet for Saturday. You can see the streamlines pointing straight toward Western Europe.
If the volcano calms down a bit the ash will clear in about 24-36 hours.
Update: Here is a pic of the dusty sky over North Wales on Friday evening from a friend. Most of the time he shoots wedding not clouds. Just the opposite of me! If you ever need a wedding photographed Alan Williams in Wales, you know now who to call!
Stay tuned, and for those of you stuck in Paris or London – why are you complaining!!