Monitoring atmospheric composition & climate
Volcanic eruption on Java

On 25 October 2010 Mount Merapi, an active volcano on the Indonesian island of Java, started erupting. Since then it has erupted many times causing a large number of casualties. The volcano has also produced plumes of volcanic ash and sulphur dioxide that can potentially affect air quality and aviation safety.

MACC is developing services to support institutions that are providing advice and warnings related to atmospheric composition. In the case of the current Mount Merapi volcanic eruption, the direct responsibility for advice for aviation for the region lies with the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

MACC already has the capability to make pre-operational plume forecasts using its advanced data assimilation system for atmospheric composition. Assumptions have to be made about the amount of gas and ash, particle size and weight, and the height of the injection of these constituents into the atmosphere. The latter depends to a large extent on the explosiveness of the eruption. The movie shows the plume of a sulphur-dioxide-like tracer (total columns) as forecasted by the MACC system using an arbitrary amount of SO2 injected at 9 - 11 km.


When MACC reaches its operational phase, by 2014 at the latest, it will be able to use actual information about volcanic eruptions in combination with operational observations of atmospheric constituents, for instance from Europe’s Sentinel satellite missions, to produce plume forecasts in a timely manner. These will be provided on request to the relevant institutions to help them assess the situation and provide detailed information. This would include the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres but also agencies dealing with the impact on public health.

In the meantime, the MACC system will be used to diagnose volcanic events to learn how accurately the spread of the plume can be forecasted, the impact of the available satellite data, and what new observations are needed for future monitoring and forecasting. More detailed forecasts as well as information about available observations can be found on our dedicated Mount Merapi Volcanic Eruption page.