Performance assessment of a volcanic ash transport model mini-ensemble used for inverse modeling of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption



[1] The requirement to forecast volcanic ash concentrations was amplified as a response to the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption when ash safety limits for aviation were introduced in the European area. The ability to provide accurate quantitative forecasts relies to a large extent on the source term which is the emissions of ash as a function of time and height. This study presents source term estimations of the ash emissions from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption derived with an inversion algorithm which constrains modeled ash emissions with satellite observations of volcanic ash. The algorithm is tested with input from two different dispersion models, run on three different meteorological input data sets. The results are robust to which dispersion model and meteorological data are used. Modeled ash concentrations are compared quantitatively to independent measurements from three different research aircraft and one surface measurement station. These comparisons show that the models perform reasonably well in simulating the ash concentrations, and simulations using the source term obtained from the inversion are in overall better agreement with the observations (rank correlation = 0.55, Figure of Merit in Time (FMT) = 25–46%) than simulations using simplified source terms (rank correlation = 0.21, FMT = 20–35%). The vertical structures of the modeled ash clouds mostly agree with lidar observations, and the modeled ash particle size distributions agree reasonably well with observed size distributions. There are occasionally large differences between simulations but the model mean usually outperforms any individual model. The results emphasize the benefits of using an ensemble-based forecast for improved quantification of uncertainties in future ash crises.