Studies have shown that a bulge in the land appears before a volcano erupts and the size of the bulge determines how much ash will be spewed skywards. This discovery came to light after a study led by Sigrun Hreinsdottir of the Nordic Volcanological Centre in Reykjavik observed data from GPS sensors placed around the volcano of Grimsvoetn in Iceland. The sensors detected the change in geography prior to eruption and the bulge that formed allowed for a snapshot of the conditions within the magma chamber, an area instrumental to the scale of eruption. The timing of an eruption and the size of the ash plume all depend on the activity within this underground chamber and by accurately assessing the volume of magma, the mounting pressure, the resilience of the rock walls and various other factors, the size and density of the ash cloud can now be determined.
This early warning system will be a very useful tool for aviation authorities as volcanic ash can have dramatic implications for airlines and travellers. In 2010 ash from Eyjafjallajökull brought airports across Europe to a standstill and grounded over 100,000 flights. Thousands of stranded passengers with nowhere to go packed departure halls for days on end ,passing the time by playing games at sites like www.mobilecasino.mobi whilst eagerly awaiting news of clearer skies. The astronomical costs of delayed travel due to closed airspace fast mounted and without a prediction of when the ash would clear, more than eight million passengers were left severely out of pocket.
If the findings of this study are interpreted in near-real time in the future these observations would greatly improve the forecasting of the affect an ash plume would have on aviation. In order for this method to be effective, active volcanoes would need to be kept under close surveillance and imminent eruptions would be monitored to forecast the possibility of ash clouds that could influence airspace shutdowns. This data is vital to the aviation industry as airlines that are forewarned about potential delays could implement contingency plans and the impact of volcanic ash clouds could be minimised.