Assessment of the volcanic hazard of Mt. Paektu explosion to international air traffic using South Korean airspace

  • Seyun Kim
  • Jiseon Lee
  • Soohwan Oh
  • Yoonjin YoonEmail author
Original Paper


A volcanic eruption is one of the most critical natural hazards in air transportation. In the European region, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 triggered extensive discussions and efforts to adopt a risk-based volcanic contingency management plan in civil aviation. However, there has been relative lack of such efforts in the Asia–Pacific region. In this paper, a hypothetical eruption scenario of Mt. Paektu is studied to evaluate its impact on international air traffic using South Korean airspace. Mt. Paektu is an active volcano, and man-made earthquakes caused by North Korea’s recent nuclear weapons tests have elevated concerns about the possibility of an eruption. Based on multiple route closure tolerance criteria, direct and indirect losses including system serviceability, cancellation cost and passenger losses were evaluated, utilizing air route network data set and six-day ash dispersal scenario. Under the zero tolerance, system serviceability ranged between 3 and 60%. System serviceability ranged between 51 and 100% under the most lenient tolerance of 50%. Flight cancellation costs were $231 M and $68 M under the zero and 50% tolerance criteria. More than 80% of flights and 77% of cancellation costs were associated with the Asian region, especially China and Japan. In summary, impact on international air traffic was significant, and the gaps according to variation in tolerance were evident. Decisions on tolerance criteria are critical and must consider trade-offs between aircraft damage and system serviceability. Moreover, airspaces of China and Japan need to be considered in conjunction with Korea to assess the volcanic hazards in the region.


Volcanic hazard Air transportation Mt. Paektu HYSPLIT Volcanic contingency management 



This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIP) (No. 2017R1E1A1A01076315).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringKorea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)DaejeonRepublic of Korea

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