UK hazards from a large Icelandic effusive eruption. Effusive Eruption Modelling Project final report

Witham, Claire; Aspinall, Willy; Braban, Christine; Hall, Jane; Loughlin, Sue; Schmidt, Anja; Vieno, Massimo; Bealey, Bill; Hort, Matthew; Ilyinskaya, Evgenia; Kentisbeer, John; Roberts, Elin; Rowe, Ed. 2015 UK hazards from a large Icelandic effusive eruption. Effusive Eruption Modelling Project final report. Exeter, Met Office, 226pp. (CEH Project no. C05065)

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In response to the recent introduction of large, long-lasting gas-rich volcanic eruptions to the UK National Risk Register (risk H55) a modelling project has been conducted to improve our understanding of potential hazards to the UK from such an eruption on Iceland. A precautionary “reasonable worst case” eruption scenario based on the 1783-1784 CE Laki eruption has been determined using the results of an expert elicitation of scientists. This scenario has been simulated 80 times using two different atmospheric chemistry and transport models (NAME and EMEP4UK) over 10 years of meteorology (2003-2012). The results provide information on the range of concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2), sulphate aerosol (SO4) and some halogen species that might be experienced in the UK during such an eruption and the likelihood of key thresholds being exceeded and the duration of their exceedance. Data for the surface and for a range of key flight altitudes have been produced. These are evaluated against the threshold bandings of the UK’s Air Quality Index (AQI). The impact on UK ecosystems has also been considered. The data are intended to be used by UK Government Departments for further research into the impacts on the aviation, health, environmental and agricultural sectors. The results show that the prevailing meteorological conditions are the key influence on which parts of the North Atlantic and European region are affected at any time. The results demonstrate that the UK is unlikely to be affected by week after week of significantly elevated concentrations; rather there will a number of short (hours to days) pollution episodes where concentrations at the surface would be elevated bove Moderate and High air quality index levels. This pattern reflects the generally changeable nature of the weather in the UK. At the surface, consecutive exceedance durations are longer for SO4 than SO2, and can be particularly lengthy (1-2 weeks) in the Low air quality index levels, which may be of relevance to health impact assessments. The indications of potential peak concentrations and their corresponding AQI exceedance probabilities within this report serve to inform national, high-level generic risk planning. For more specific response planning, a much larger modelling study with multiple eruption scenarios and a greater number of meteorological realisations would be needed.

Item Type: Publication - Report
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Dise
Funders/Sponsors: Civil Contingencies Secretariat (Cabinet Office)
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Freely available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Meteorology and Climatology
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 21 Jan 2016 12:20 +0 (UTC)

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