BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo volcanologist who is an
expert in volcanic ash clouds and their impact on air travel is
available to speak with news media about new scientific research he
is conducting on better assessing the hazards of volcanic ash
Marcus Bursik, PhD, UB professor and chair of the Department of
Geology in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, will travel to
Iceland next week, where he will attend two major meetings
Sept.15-19 on last spring's eruption at Eyjafjallajökull and
participate in a tour of the volcano.
A recent recipient of a National Science Foundation RAPID
Response Research grant to address some of the aviation issues
posed by volcanic plumes, Bursik is principal investigator on an
NSF grant to study "Particle Trajectories in Volcanic Plumes:
Tracking the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull Plume."
"The purpose of our research is to help improve the
international community's ability to assess ash cloud hazards,"
says Bursik. "Our research could have important ramifications for
air traffic over the next several years and has the potential to
result in important savings to industry by developing tools that
will make possible more precise assessments of the hazards of ash
He notes that historic eruptions at the Eyjafjallajökull
volcano have lasted for a year or more and triggered eruptions at
nearby Katla volcano, which in the 18th century produced such dense
smog that it destroyed crops and livestock.
"Some of our goals, for example, are better assessment of the
particle concentration and trajectories of the ash clouds that will
help aviation officials better determine flight routes and no-fly
zones during volcanic crises," says Bursik.
To improve the understanding of all of the uncertain variables
that affect the behavior of a volcanic ash cloud plume, such as
eruption strength and wind speed, Bursik and his colleagues will
employ several modeling techniques, including ensemble forecasting,
a statistical prediction method, to develop probabilistic ash cloud
maps as well as volcanic ash dispersion models.
"We will use the models to 'hindcast' the direction of the ash
cloud produced last spring by Eyjafjallajökull, meaning we
will run model tests to see whether it can accurately predict the
course of that ash cloud," he explains. "If so, then that gives us
confidence that the model can produce the probabilistic estimates
of potential ash cloud behavior."
Co-investigators on the grant include Matthew Jones, PhD, deputy
director of the Center for Computational Research in UB's New York
State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, and
UB faculty members in the Department of Mathematics and the
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in UB's School
of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Additional investigators
include colleagues at the Geophysical Institute at the University
of Alaska, Fairbanks NOAA-NESDIS and Michigan Technological
Bursik is a member of the UB Center for GeoHazards Studies at http://www.geohazards.buffalo.edu
which is supporting the strategic strength in mitigation and
response to extreme events identified in the UB 2020 strategic plan
for academic, research and service excellence.
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York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
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