A jet owned by the German Air Research Center, which is equipped with devices and sensors to analyze the ash emitted by the volcano in Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland, arrived in the country yesterday.
The ash cloud. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“The jet can tell us about the distribution of the ash and it can, to a certain degree, fly into the ash cloud, although it cannot be exposed to too much ash,” Haraldur Ólafsson, professor in meteorology at the University of Iceland, told Morgunbladid.
On their way to the country, the crew of the test jet didn’t notice much ash above Iceland’s southwestern corner. The jet took a few dives above Eyjafjallajökull to collect samples, which will be analyzed today.
Ólafsson said it is clear that the ash level will be low. The jet will go on another expedition today and is expected to return to Germany on Sunday.
The cost of the expeditions, approximately ISK 30 million (USD 233,000, EUR 175,000), will only be covered by Iceland to a small extent—the largest part will be paid for by the German Ministry of Transport and the British Meteorological Office.
Ólafsson explained that significant interests are at stake. “In the past days the forecasts that have come from the British Met Office have been rather bleak and more pessimistic than what considered reasonable compared to the current situation of the eruption.”
“The reason [for the testing] is that it is costly to close the airspace and it is very important to have confirmation of whether there is a real danger,” Ólafsson said, adding that the risk factor of ash in the atmosphere has never been analyzed directly before.
“It has been evaluated visually. People have measured the height of the ash plume on radars and visually from airplanes,” Ólafsson explained. “Significant uncertainty lies in these measurements, which explains why the forecasts have been questionable.”
Our special offer for the Iceland Review magazine with eruption photos and coverage.