Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Smelling The Grimsvotn
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (ESA) Sep 10, 2012

Sulphur dioxide from Grimsvotn volcano on 27 May 2011. Once landed, Captain Klaus Sievers used satellite data provided by the Support to Aviation Control Service (SACS) to confirm the presence of sulphur dioxide and, subsequently, the presence of some volcanic aerosol. This image is based on data from the GOME-2 instrument on the MetOp-A satellite. Credits: DLR/BIRA-IASB/Eumetsat.

While piloting a commercial transatlantic flight last year, Captain Klaus Sievers and his crew got a whiff of an unusual odour. In a confined space 10 km up in the air, there was only one thing it could be. The foul smell with traces of sulphur in the cockpit came from none other than the Grimsvotn volcano that was spewing gas and ash from southeast Iceland.

Sulphur dioxide often indicates volcanic ash, and the presence of ash in the atmosphere can endanger jet engines.

Timely information about ash, sulphur dioxide clouds and their dispersion are crucial to alert civil aviation authorities.

Earth-observing satellites can provide this information. With frequent and worldwide measurements of ash plumes and sulphur dioxide emissions, satellites help to improve aviation safety.

Once landed, Captain Sievers, a representative of the German Airline Pilots' Association, used data from the MetOp satellite via the Support to Aviation Control Service - SACS - to confirm the sulphur dioxide.

"The SACS images allowed me clearly to identify and locate the Grimsvotn sulphur plumes after the flight," he said.

"The images also gave an indication of the gas cloud position before the flight, but did not provide a forecast of their exact location.

"As I found out, the smell of Grimsvotn is not pleasant. For comfort and safety reasons, it would be good if it were possible to avoid such an experience for you and all people on the airplane."

Inhalation of sulphur dioxide, even at low concentrations, can affect people with respiratory problems. Flight crews are advised to use oxygen masks while the smell lingers.

When sulphur dioxide combines with water in the atmosphere, sulphuric acid is formed, which can damage aircraft windows, fade exterior paint and build up sulphate deposits in engines. This leads to higher maintenance costs.

Based on multi-satellite observations, SACS provides early warning ash and sulphur dioxide information about volcanic eruptions.

When an eruption occurs, an alert is sent to interested users, most notably to Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres, and public maps are generated showing the extent and intensity of the volcanic plumes.

Capt. Sievers has been using satellite images through the SACS service for the past two years to prepare for his intercontinental flights.

It proved particularly useful when planning his route from the Far East to Europe on 15 June. A day earlier, the Nabro volcano had erupted in Eritrea, spewing ash across his intended route over East Africa and the Middle East.

"Satellite information on sulphur dioxide-cloud movement raised awareness of a natural phenomenon," said Capt. Sievers.

"This influenced the choice of a flight level for a trouble-free flight during the night of 15-16 June.

"As a captain, I would like to receive realtime observations and forecasts of volcanic ash and sulphur dioxide in the future.

"These should include height and concentration information, and good geographic coverage.

"The information should be provided with the regular flight documents for decision-making by the crew.

"At present, there is no legal requirement for sulphur dioxide information, which I deeply regret."

Volcanic ash and sulphur dioxide can spread rapidly in the atmosphere, affecting skies over a wide area.

The eruptions of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull in April 2010 and Grimsvotn in May 2011 caused air traffic to be temporarily suspended throughout Europe, affecting economic, political and social activities worldwide.


Related Links
The Air We Breathe at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

NASA-Funded Study Helps Untangle Methane Mystery
Pasadena CA (SPX) Sep 03, 2012
Atmospheric methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but is present in Earth's atmosphere at much lower levels. Because of its large potential impact on climate change, scientists closely monitor its levels. Global levels of methane increased for decades in the 20th century as a result of worldwide industrial and agricultural activity. Then, from the 1980s t ... read more

NASA's GRAIL Moon Twins Begin Extended Mission Science

Flags at half mast across US for Armstrong funeral

Walls of Lunar Crater May Hold Patchy Ice, LRO Radar Finds

Russia's moonshot hope 'not a dream'

Indian PM defends spending on space exploration

Hadley Crater - closing in on the Martian interior

Northrop Grumman Aids Navigation of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover

Mars's dramatic climate variations are driven by the Sun

Mankind's messenger at the final frontier

35 years on, Voyager 'dancing on edge' of outer space

Space-age food served up with seeds of success

Africa eyes joint space agency

Tiangong Orbit Change Signals Likely Date for Shenzhou 10

China Focus: Timeline for China's space research revealed

China eyes next lunar landing as US scales back

China unveils ambitious space projects

Astronauts Take Second Spacewalk

ISS crew complete space station repair

Crew Wraps Up Preparations for Wednesday's Spacewalk

Building MLM Under Way at Khrunichev

Arianespace concurrently manages six missions with Ariane 5 and Soyuz

First-Stage Fuel Loaded; Launch Weather Forecast Improves

NASA launches mission to explore radiation belts

ISRO to score 100 with a cooperative mission Sep 9

Birth of a planet

A Hot Potential Habitable Exoplanet around Gliese 163

NASA's Kepler Discovers Multiple Planets Orbiting a Pair of Stars

How Old are the First Planets?

World watches for 'iPhone 5' unveiling Wednesday

Airborne observatory and electronic noses - DLR presents new space developments at ILA

Estonian first graders to learn computer code

Tough gel stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement