Apr 21 2010 Posted: 00:00 IST
Researchers at NUI Galway have revealed that the volcanic plume from Iceland has been observed by specialised instrumentation installed at strategic boundary locations around Ireland. The volcanic plume was at the west coast at the NUI Galway Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station on Monday. Experts from the School of Physics and the Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies, NUI Galway, have monitored the development of the plume. By Monday afternoon the plume was observed to be about 200m thick over Mace Head, at 3km altitude but invisible to the naked eye. Through the night, the plume mixed into the surface level and continues to be observed through the day. The plume will have diluted significantly and is not likely to significantly impact on air quality. These episodes are only evident by contrast to the clean air which would be normally experienced at Mace Head. The most detailed information on the plume has been provided by the NUI Galway, Global Atmospheric Watch supersite, at Mace Head, on the west Galway coastline. Commenting on the observations, Professor Colin O'Dowd said: "The plume and its influences are clearly evident from a number of observations via real-time highly sophisticated in-situ instruments and remote sensing atmospheric profilers. At Mace Head we use some of the most advanced atmospheric instrumentation anywhere in the world. These instruments are designed to detect the pollutants from a range of events including volcanic eruptions". This is not the first volcanic emissions from Iceland that has been observed at Mace Head. "We last year published a paper on emission plumes from a non-erupting volcano event which occurred on 26 June, 2007 and, even more recently (10 days before the current eruption), we could detect volcanic plumes; however, the regional scale impact of the current plume is in a different league. Nevertheless, our atmospheric sampling capabilities demonstrate their critical usefulness in monitoring and event assessment" said Professor O'Dowd. Such observations along with modelling of the plume and regular forecasting of meteorological conditions are important contributions to decision making during the current circumstances. Professor O'Dowd added: "Even with precipitation, the vast majority of the volcanic pollution would be deposited to the surface and should not represent an air quality risk for the currently detected plume. The air pollution levels are well below the EU air pollution exceedence levels and do not represent a public health risk". The data from the Mace Head site on the west coast are strategically important for monitoring trans-boundary pollution and events such the current volcanic eruption. The value of data from such sites is clear during such occasions and helps us in assessment of how such events may impact on air quality".