NUI Galway Scientists First to Produce Volcanic Ash Operational Forecasts

Monday, 10 May 2010

NUI Galway researchers have developed Ireland's own capability of Icelandic plume dispersion forecasting and assessment. In a first for Ireland, and one of only a few in Europe, the forecasting system is expected to be one of the most sophisticated in Europe after further refinement over the coming weeks. The four-day forecasts of plume density and dispersion are produced at least twice a day currently and over the next week will increase to six-day forecasts four-times daily (www.macehead.org). Professor Colin O'Dowd, Director of the Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies at NUI Galway, which is behind this major development, stated: "The rapid development of the volcanic plume forecasting model to provide Ireland's own capability of assessment and prediction is an not only an excellent example of national collaboration and solidarity amongst key scientific partners in times of national need but also of innovation and a capacity for rapid response in a crisis. The combined skill of NUI Galway in atmospheric physics and air pollution research, Met √Čireann in weather and climate research, and the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) in computational science, was the perfect recipe for the rapid success". Professor O'Dowd added: "The ICHEC supercomputers have been critical to accommodating the daily influx of terabytes of model initialisation data and the number crunching of these data in highly complex regional climate and weather forecasting models used in the prediction facility. Essential to the success was the ability of ICHEC to contribute computational research scientists to the demanding challenge of optimising computer code for parallel supercomputing, involving 2,500 parallel processors, necessary to address complex problems. The underlying research funding that enabled this significant achievement was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)". While the initial aim is not to replace the official London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for aviation decisions, it certainly provides an additional informative tool for potential air travellers and allows them the capability of making more informed travel decisions based on additional information.
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