Monday night’s eruption at Mount Tongariro set in motion MetService’s volcanic ash monitoring process for the aviation industry. The Volcanic Ash Advisory process involves interaction between aircraft operators, Airways Corporation and MetService, with important volcanic information input from GNS Science.
This information is also provided to Civil Aviation (CAA) and is used by them to designate Volcanic Hazard zones around those volcanoes that are known to be Volcanic Alert Level 1 or higher.
MetService produces Volcanic Ash Advisories (VAA), volcanic ash SIGMETs (warnings of significant aviation hazards) and forecasts for the track of the ash cloud, using ash trajectory models and other supporting information, including reports of visible ash.
Airways Corporation notifies airlines about which routes and procedures will be affected by each level of volcanic activity, and aircraft require air traffic control clearance via specific request from the pilot to operate within a Volcanic Hazard zone.
MetService’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) is part of a worldwide chain of 9 such centres, all working together to pass on information about ash cloud as it moves around the globe. Only last year, MetService worked closely with Australia’s VAAC in Darwin to keep an eye of the movement of the ash from Chile’s Puyehue Volcano. You can read more about that event on our website here: http://www.metservice.com/ar-2011/case-study1.html
Please note that MetService does not provide ash forecasts direct to the public, as our monitoring is specific to aviation requirements. However, if you are interested in the direction of the ash cloud, you can view a graphic representation of the latest ash monitoring information on our Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre site here: http://vaac.metservice.com/wellington
GNS Science is the organisation responsible for issuing Volcanic Alert Bulletins (including the predicted ashfall area) and Civil Defence are also monitoring the situation and issuing updates as required.
All queries regarding commercial passenger flights should be directed to your airline, and your best source of information about the volcano itself is GNS Science’s GeoNet site: http://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/activity/tongariro/