Nicarnica Aviation successfully tested its airborne ash detection system (inset), mounted on an Airbus A340 airplane, last October. The sensor identified silicate particles in volcanic ash released over France’s Bay of Biscay from 60 kilometers away, enou

Nicarnica Aviation/P. Masclet

Nicarnica Aviation successfully tested its airborne ash detection system (inset), mounted on an Airbus A340 airplane, last October. The sensor identified silicate particles in volcanic ash released over France’s Bay of Biscay from 60 kilometers away, enough to give pilots 7 to 10 minutes of warning.

As Iceland volcano rumbles, scientists plan for aviation alerts

Carolyn is a staff writer for Science and is the editor of the In Brief section.

Iceland's Bárðarbunga volcano, buried under the giant Vatnajökull glacier, has been holding scientists in suspense over the last 2 weeks, producing frequent seismic rumbles but no signs yet of an actual eruption. But scientists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) in Reykjavík are now seasoned by back-to-back eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and Grímsvötn in 2011 that produced large ash clouds and caused costly air traffic snarls. IMO is leading a European Union–funded effort called FUTUREVOLC to build a comprehensive database of local volcanic data and develop new tools—including new seismic stations, water chemistry samplers, and ground- and airplane-based ash detectors. Meanwhile, Bárðarbunga continues to rumble, and scientists are standing by.

For more, see the full story in this week's issue of Science.

Posted in Earth, Environment