Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 72, Issue 9, pp 1039–1059 | Cite as

Evaluating long-range volcanic ash hazard using supercomputing facilities: application to Somma-Vesuvius (Italy), and consequences for civil aviation over the Central Mediterranean Area

  • A. Folch
  • R. Sulpizio
Research Article


Volcanic ash causes multiple hazards. One hazard of increasing importance is the threat posed to civil aviation, which occurs over proximal to long-range distances. Ash fallout disrupts airport operations, while the presence of airborne ash at low altitudes near airports affects visibility and the safety of landing and take-off operations. Low concentrations of ash at airplane cruise levels are sufficient to force re-routing of in-flight aircrafts. Volcanic fallout deposits spanning large distances have been recognized from the Somma-Vesuvius volcano for several Holocene explosive eruptions. Here we develop hazard and isochron maps for distal ash fallout from the Somma-Vesuvius, as well as hazard maps for critical ash concentrations at relevant flight levels. Maps are computed by coupling a meteorological model with a fully numeric tephra dispersal model that can account for ash aggregation processes, which are relevant to the dispersion dynamics of fine ash. The simulations were carried out using supercomputing facilities, spanning on entire meteorological year that is statistically representative of the local meteorology during the last few decades. Seasonal influences are also analyzed. The eruptive scenario is based on a Subplinian I-type eruption, which is within the range of the maximum expected event for this volcano. Results allow us to quantify the impact that an event of this magnitude and intensity would have on the main airports and aerial corridors of the Central Mediterranean Area.


Ash fallout Aerial navigation safety Hazard maps Somma-Vesuvius Supercomputer 



This work has been partially funded by the “Ramón y Cajal” Spanish scientific program. R. Sulpizio carried out this work under the HPC-Europa ++ project (RII3-CT-2003-506079), with the support of the European Community—Research Infrastructure Action under the FP6 “Structuring the European Research Area” Programme). Simulations have been done at the BSC-CNS supercomputing facilities (Barcelona, Spain) using the MareNostrum computer. Suggestions of Alain Volentik and an anonymous reviewer improved the manuscript. We thank Russel Drysdale for the editing of the English text. P. Dellino and D. Mele are acknowledged for their helpful assistance in calculating particle characteristics.


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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Barcelona Supercomputing CenterCentro Nacional de SupercomputaciónBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.CIRISIVUc/o Dipartimento GeomineralogicoBariItaly

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