Pavlof Volcano - Photo by Brandon WilsonThe Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has launched an online ash fall data collection system. Titled Is Ash Falling?, the site offers citizen scientists a chance to help in assessment of volcanic eruption plumes. Adding real time field observations can help delineate the character and size of an eruption plume. Information is also passed to the National Weather Service to help in the formation of their Ashfall Advisories service that is especially important the safe operation of aircraft near active volcanoes.

People living, working and playing near active volcanoes in Alaska are in a much better position to gather data and collect ash, than researchers working out of Fairbanks. The AVO has limited resources and can’t deploy field personnel and sensor equipment to every active volcano.

The ash fall reporting system is hosted by the AVO website. This site allows for the firsthand accounts of ashfall and provides detailed instructions on how to collect volcanic ash after an eruption. A copy of the collection instructions in PDF format are available here.

Tom Murray, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Science Center, says of the effort, “Ash fall, especially small amounts, is easily mixed in with previous and later ash-fall events and then blown about by winds in the summer. It becomes impossible to tease out ash from different explosions and the timing of when it fell sometimes within a week. By getting ash-fall reports from the public covering a wide range of time and area, we will be able to much better refine our ash-fall models, resulting in better forecasts.”

The AVO provides information to Alaskans about volcanic activity in the state. This includes specific information about each volcano, real-time seismic data and photographs. Ashfall data will be a great additional resource for the site.

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum

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