Hazard assessment of far-range volcanic ash dispersal from a violent Strombolian eruption at Somma-Vesuvius volcano, Naples, Italy: implications on civil aviation
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- Sulpizio, R., Folch, A., Costa, A. et al. Bull Volcanol (2012) 74: 2205. doi:10.1007/s00445-012-0656-3
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Long-range dispersal of volcanic ash can disrupt civil aviation over large areas, as occurred during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Here we assess the hazard for civil aviation posed by volcanic ash from a potential violent Strombolian eruption of Somma-Vesuvius, the most likely scenario if eruptive activity resumed at this volcano. A Somma-Vesuvius eruption is of concern for two main reasons: (1) there is a high probability (38 %) that the eruption will be violent Strombolian, as this activity has been common in the most recent period of activity (between AD 1631 and 1944); and (2) violent Strombolian eruptions typically last longer than higher-magnitude events (from 3 to 7 days for the climactic phases) and, consequently, are likely to cause prolonged air traffic disruption (even at large distances if a substantial amount of fine ash is produced such as is typical during Vesuvius eruptions). We compute probabilistic hazard maps for airborne ash concentration at relevant flight levels using the FALL3D ash dispersal model and a statistically representative set of meteorological conditions. Probabilistic hazard maps are computed for two different ash concentration thresholds, 2 and 0.2 mg/m3, which correspond, respectively, to the no-fly and enhanced procedure conditions defined in Europe during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The seasonal influence of ash dispersal is also analysed by computing seasonal maps. We define the persistence of ash in the atmosphere as the time that a concentration threshold is exceeded divided by the total duration of the eruption (here the eruption phase producing a sustained eruption column). The maps of averaged persistence give additional information on the expected duration of the conditions leading to flight disruption at a given location. We assess the impact that a violent Strombolian eruption would have on the main airports and aerial corridors of the Central Mediterranean area, and this assessment can help those who devise procedures to minimise the impact of these long-lasting low-intensity volcanic events on civil aviation.