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GOES satellite imagery offers great potential to lessen the risk of volcanic ash clouds to aviation, and the situation at Montserrat in the Caribbean is providing the proof. Many transatlantic, commercial, and private aircraft use airspace around Montserrat, where the Soufriere Hills Volcano has been erupting since 1995.

Worldwide over the last 15 years, more than 80 airplanes have reported encountering volcanic ash along flight paths. Encounters cannot be avoided because onboard radar cannot detect fine-grained ash particles—those with a radius of 15 microns or less. In recent years volcanic cloud encounters are estimated to have caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage and in a few cases have caused in-flight engine failure [Casadevall et al., 1996].

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Earth and Space Science News


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