Developing scenarios to explore impacts and weaknesses in aviation response exercises for volcanic ash eruptions in Europe

Uta Reichardt*, Gudmundur F. Ulfarsson, Guðrún Pétursdóttir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Ash from volcanic eruptions can severely interrupt air traffic, as the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 impressively demonstrated. This study used historic eruption and meteorological data to develop two volcanic ash scenarios using Icelandic volcanoes. The scenarios demonstrate the potential scale of events in terms of duration and intensity and enable an investigation of responses either during a long period of continuous risk assessment and maintenance or when facing a large-scale severe interruption of air traffic, while under current regulations. Aviation experts were invited to discuss the scenarios to help create a picture of the current resilience of the aviation sector and to identify opportunities for improvement in risk management. The research demonstrates that under both scenarios the impact on air traffic would be significant. Weaknesses in current response exercises to volcanic events were identified, suggesting a need to address more extreme scenarios and test responses to events of longer duration. The method employed in this study served as an example to assess the effects of possible impacts of volcanic eruptions on aviation in the North Atlantic and could be applied to other parts of the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101684
JournalJournal of Air Transport Management
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the European Commission on FP7 grant number 308438 , ENHANCE—Enhancing Risk Management Partnerships for Catastrophic Natural Disasters in Europe , by the University of Iceland ISAVIA Fund , and by NordForsk through the NORDRESS Centre of Excellence on Resilience and Societal Security . The authors gratefully thank the interview partners for their time and input. Special thanks are extended to Dr. Claire Witham and Dr. Frances Beckett, London VAAC, for their feedback and discussion on this research. The authors would further like to thank the reviewers whose valuable comments improved the clarity and quality of this paper. A sincere thank you to Shauna Laurel Jones for her excellent proof reading.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Other keywords

  • Aviation
  • Resilience
  • Risk governance
  • Volcanic ash


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