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The life cycle of volcanic ash

Munich, 07/11/2012

The Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 demonstrated how vulnerable our globalized society has become to the hazards associated with volcanic activity. A new research project will take a close look at volcanic ash and analyze the risks it poses.

Volcanic ash is the major product of volcanic activity. On average, volcanic eruptions inject more than a million cubic meters of ash into the atmosphere every month – and large eruptions can produce that amount within hours. The consequences of the release of large amounts of ash were brought home to us by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. Although the eruption was rated as moderate in intensity and duration, the socioeconomic damage caused by the resulting disruption of air traffic was quite significant.

New methods for risk assessment
“In spite of its obvious relevance for risk assessment, our understanding of volcanic ash, how it forms and where it comes to rest, remains poor,” says LMU geoscientist Donald Dingwell, who is embarking on a project that aims to close this gap in our knowledge. New techniques now allow researchers to study all the basic processes that influence the generation and fate of volcanic ash - from initial formation to final deposition - under controlled conditions and to investigate in detail the impact of these processes on the environment.

The three-year project is funded by a grant of 550,000 euros from the AXA Research Fund. The fund supports innovative basic research that enhances our understanding of environmental, life and socioeconomic risks. göd


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