During the past 30??years, more than 100 airplanes have inadvertently flown through clouds of volcanic ash from erupting volcanoes. Such encounters have caused millions of dollars in damage to the aircraft and have endangered the lives of tens of thousands of passengers. In a few severe cases, total engine failure resulted when ash was ingested into turbines and coating turbine blades. These incidents have prompted the establishment of cooperative efforts by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the volcanological community to provide rapid notification of eruptive activity, and to monitor and forecast the trajectories of ash clouds so that they can be avoided by air traffic. Ash-cloud properties such as plume height, ash concentration, and three-dimensional ash distribution have been monitored through non-conventional remote sensing techniques that are under active development. Forecasting the trajectories of ash clouds has required the development of volcanic ash transport and dispersion models that can calculate the path of an ash cloud over the scale of a continent or a hemisphere. Volcanological inputs to these models, such as plume height, mass eruption rate, eruption duration, ash distribution with altitude, and grain-size distribution, must be assigned in real time during an event, often with limited observations. Databases and protocols are currently being developed that allow for rapid assignment of such source parameters. In this paper, we summarize how an interdisciplinary working group on eruption source parameters has been instigating research to improve upon the current understanding of volcanic ash cloud characterization and predictions. Improved predictions of ash cloud movement and air fall will aid in making better hazard assessments for aviation and for public health and air quality. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V.