Australian Weather Calendar

Captions and picture bylines below.
Rebecca Patrick with Mohammed Hendrasto of the Indonesian Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation. A satellite image of an ash cloud over southeast Australia on 21 June 2011 (thin brown line), and the Bureau of Meteorology’s ash cloud forecast (black outline) issued six hours earlier.
Picture: NASA

May: Alerting the aviation industry to volcanic ash

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The eruption of Chile’s Cordon-Caulle volcano cost Australian airlines about $100 million from cancelled or diverted flights.

REBECCA Patrick’s field trips to nearby volcanically active countries such as Indonesia are invaluable for her role as head of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in Darwin, one of nine sister-organisations alerting the aviation industry to the hazards of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. Rebecca’s trips contributed to a five-year Australian foreign aid project which installed seismic monitoring equipment at 14 Indonesian volcanoes.

Launched in 1993, the Darwin VAAC uses satellite imagery and reports from volcanological agencies and aircraft to locate ash clouds, then runs a computer model to forecast the clouds’ future movement. The centre issues about 1500 Volcanic Ash Advisories a year.

Between 1973 and 2000, commercial aircraft reported nearly 100 encounters with volcanic ash clouds. The massive disruption in April 2010 caused by the Eyjafjallajkull volcano in Iceland cost the aviation industry alone an estimated $US2.2 billion.