The extensive volcanic cloud from Kasatochi's 2008 eruption caused widespread disruptions to aviation operations along Pacific oceanic, Canadian, and U.S. air routes. Based on aviation hazard warnings issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Meteorological Service of Canada, air carriers largely avoided the volcanic cloud over a 5 day period by route modifications and flight cancellations. Comparison of time coincident GOES thermal infrared (TIR) data for ash detection with Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) ultraviolet data for SO2 detection shows congruent areas of ash and gas in the volcanic cloud in the 2 days following onset of ash production. After about 2.5 days, the area of SO2 detected by OMI was more extensive than the area of ash indicated by TIR data, indicating significant ash depletion by fall out had occurred. Pilot reports of visible haze at cruise altitudes over Canada and the northern United States suggested that SO2 gas had converted to sulfate aerosols. Uncertain about the hazard potential of the aging cloud, airlines coped by flying over, under, or around the observed haze layer. Samples from a nondamaging aircraft encounter with Kasatochi's nearly 3 day old cloud contained volcanic silicate particles, confirming that some fine ash is present in predominantly gas clouds. The aircraft's exposure to ash was insufficient to cause engine damage; however, slightly damaging encounters with volcanic clouds from eruptions of Reventador in 2002 and Hekla in 2000 indicate the possibility of lingering hazards associated with old and/or diffuse volcanic clouds.
Additional publication details
Aviation response to a widely dispersed volcanic ash and gas cloud from the August 2008 eruption of Kasatochi, Alaska, USA