Natural Hazards

, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 1519–1533 | Cite as

A volcanic activity alert-level system for aviation: review of its development and application in Alaska

Original Paper


An alert-level system for communicating volcano hazard information to the aviation industry was devised by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) during the 1989–1990 eruption of Redoubt Volcano. The system uses a simple, color-coded ranking that focuses on volcanic ash emissions: Green—normal background; Yellow—signs of unrest; Orange—precursory unrest or minor ash eruption; Red—major ash eruption imminent or underway. The color code has been successfully applied on a regional scale in Alaska for a sustained period. During 2002–2011, elevated color codes were assigned by AVO to 13 volcanoes, eight of which erupted; for that decade, one or more Alaskan volcanoes were at Yellow on 67 % of days and at Orange or Red on 12 % of days. As evidence of its utility, the color code system is integrated into procedures of agencies responsible for air-traffic management and aviation meteorology in Alaska. Furthermore, it is endorsed as a key part of globally coordinated protocols established by the International Civil Aviation Organization to provide warnings of ash hazards to aviation worldwide. The color code and accompanying structured message (called a Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation) comprise an effective early-warning message system according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. The aviation color code system currently is used in the United States, Russia, New Zealand, Iceland, and partially in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. Although there are some barriers to implementation, with continued education and outreach to Volcano Observatories worldwide, greater use of the aviation color code system is achievable.


Aviation hazards Hazard warning systems Volcanic ash hazards 


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Copyright information

© US Government 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological SurveyAnchorageUSA

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