27th April - Today's News: Was There an Ash Cloud: Setting the Record Straight

The Scottish Daily Record has summarised the disingenuous and false claims perpetrated by the Mail on Sunday, and being a shorter piece, I thought I'd quote it in full and offer comment:

THE volcanic ash cloud that grounded planes across Europe was "close to undetectable", aviation chiefs have admitted.

No, that's not what they said. See below:

British airspace was closed on April 15 by NATS, the air traffic control service, who were following a UN policy.

It is not UN policy, it was based on ICAO guidelines which were set because the airline industry had not provided data to provide a better ash concentration limit.

They based their decision on theoretical weather models from the Met Office, who predicted the cloud would cover a vast area.

The decision was based on real time observations of ash clouds, although models did also predict how the clouds would extend. Later observations showed these predictions to be highly accurate.

However, the main Met Office research plane had been stripped down for a paint job and was unable to collect real-world data.

The aircraft would not have been able to fly across the whole of Europe on an hourly basis, so this is largely irrelevant. The extent and concentration of the ash cloud was measured by ground based LIDAR and by satellite as well as visiual observation

Jim McKenna, the Civil Aviation Authority's head of airworthiness, strategy and policy, said: "It's obvious that at the start of this crisis, there was a lack of definitive data.

"It's also true that for some of the time, the density of ash above the UK was close to undetectable."

Indeed. And for some of time time, flights were allowed over the UK. However for most of the time, most of the UK was under an observed dust cloud - which also resulted in ash falls being observed in parts of the country such as in Sheffield - ironically reported by the Daily Mail - the same paper which then went on to claim the ash didn't exist!)

It turns out the maximum density of the cloud was only five per cent of the safe flying limit.

The safe flying limit was zero. Do the maths ....... The limit has now been changed - based, apparently, on one single test flight. The test flight did not carry equipment to accurately measure the density of ash through which it flew. This article explains why such tests had not been carried out previously.

And satellite images showed UK skies were ash-free for most of the six-day crisis.

On the contrary, they showed - at the time - that there was ash over the UK for most of the six day crisis. Photographs showed ash clouds over the UK just a couple of hours before the skies were reopened.

Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson said: "Our engineers and all the experts were telling us there was no danger at all to flying. I think the Government have accepted there was over-reaction."

There may well have been over-reaction. But it's no good someone saying a plane is safe to fly when they have deliberately avoided carrying out any test to show that to be the case.

Other news stories pertinient to this, and reported at the time on this blog, include:

Finnish air force warns of volcanic dust damage in fighter jets

Swiss lasers map volcanic ash cloud from Iceland

F-16 fighters damaged by volcanic ash

RAF Typhoon training halted as ash found in engines

US military fears volcano could harm jets

Also worth noting that in the past, eruptions in Alaska have caused disruption to air traffic as far afield as Texas.

Other news today:

Climate debate gets ugly as world moves to curb CO2

Huge asphalt volcanoes discovered off California

Temperatures reach record highs in central Myanmar

Number of deaths now at 12 as US tornadoes claim lives in Mississippi and Alabama

And finally some elections news - which takes us back to Iceland since according to a candidate from the Christian Peoples Alliance volcano 'shows leaders must repent'. Perhaps for all the money they and their colleagiues have stolen from us in the guise of 'expenses'?


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