Impacts: I) Operational decision making during the 2010
Eyjafjallajökull eruption, including that of the UK Civil Aviation
Authority to relax airspace restrictions over Europe. II) Strategic
planning for future volcanic hazards, including the 2012 classification by
the UK National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies of Icelandic volcanic
eruptions as a `highest priority risk'.
Significance and reach: The relaxation of airspace restrictions
over Europe affected up to ten million travellers and mitigated on-going
airline industry costs of up to £130 million per day.
Underpinned by: Research into the size, frequency and dynamics of
Icelandic volcanic eruptions, undertaken at the University of Edinburgh
(2006 — January 2013).
The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Iceland caused prolonged
closure of European airspace, costing the global airline industry an
estimated $200 million per day and disrupting 10 million passengers. We
have developed and tested models that predict the dispersal of volcanic
ash and developed instrumentation to monitor ash clouds during flight bans
and used it to test the models. Our research played a key role in
establishing the need for a flight ban and in the adoption of a more
flexible approach to its staged lifting as the emergency continued. It
also led to increased levels of readiness and to new emergency procedures
being put in place across Europe which have minimised the economic costs
and human inconvenience without an unacceptable rise in the risks to
passengers and crew. The new procedures safely eliminated unnecessary
disruption to flights in the latter days of the crisis and during the
subsequent eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Grímsvötn in 2011.
Impact type: Public Policy
Significance: The research provided evidence for formulation of
government policies to ameliorate poor air quality, to which fine
particulate matter (PM2.5), O3 and NO2
are the most important contributors; PM2.5 alone reduces
average life expectancy in the UK by 6 months and costs £9bn-£20bn a year.
The research has been incorporated into UK national guidance and
policy-evidence documents for Defra, the Health Protection Agency, and the
Beneficiaries are the public and the environment.
Research; date; attribution: EaStCHEM research (1995-2011) (a)
established reliable techniques to measure NO2 for a national
protocol, and (b) quantified the impact of pollutant emissions on PM2.5
and O3 concentrations, and on hospital admissions and deaths.
Heal (EaStCHEM) led the research and wrote, collaboratively in some cases,
the reports and the work cited.
Reach: UK wide.
Technology developed at UoM on clouds and aerosols proved vital in
deriving ash mass concentrations during the 2010 eruption of the Iceland
volcano, verifying the Met Office model that was defining the airspace
exclusion zone and predict ash loadings for the Civil Aviation Authority.
The shutdown of airspace cost the airline industry worldwide an estimated
$1.7bn, reaching $400m per day on April 19th. Reassurance
provided by our verification allowed lifting of flight restrictions which
had the immediate effect of re-opening airspace, relieving the impact on
hundreds of thousands of people globally, leading to an estimated global
saving to the industry of $10bn The approach has resulted in new long term
airborne response capability at the Met Office.
The ash cloud from the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano in
2010 caused the
cancellation of over 100,000 flights and cost an estimated £3 billion. The
much larger eruption of
Grimsvötn (also in Iceland) the following year caused only 900 flights to
be cancelled and its
economic cost was around one per cent of that associated with the
Eyjafjallajökull eruption. A key
factor in this huge reduction was the improved understanding of ash clouds
researchers at the University of Bristol. Drawing on research conducted
over two decades and
immediately after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, the Bristol team were
able to inform and advise
airlines and major decision-makers such as the Civil Aviation Authority,
the UK Government and
the European Space Agency. The input has since had a beneficial impact
around the globe and
has directly affected decisions and research strategies made by the Met
Office and Rolls-Royce
regarding operational developments associated with volcanic ash monitoring
Research carried out at the University of Leeds has led to the
development of a system for predicting severe air turbulence at airports
and elsewhere. The research modelled highly localised `rotor streaming'
turbulence which is too small-scale to predict using today's numerical
weather prediction models. The Met Office now uses the highly efficient
3DVOM computer prediction model, based on the Leeds research, to improve
its operational weather forecasting, especially for providing warnings of
`gustiness' to the public and airports and to highlight risks of
overturning of high-sided vehicles. In addition, the model is used by
forecasters to predict dangerous turbulence at Mount Pleasant Airport in
the Falkland Islands, and has led to the prevention of around five flight
diversions per year at an estimated cost saving of £1.25 million.
Air pollution is a major health concern and government policy driver.
Leeds researchers and colleagues have developed a detailed chemical
mechanism which describes reactions in the lower atmosphere leading to the
formation of ozone and secondary particulate matter, key air pollutants.
The so-called `master chemical mechanism' (MCM) is considered the `gold
standard' and has been used by the UK government and industry groups to
inform their position on EU legislation and by the US EPA to validate and
extend their regulatory models. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection
Department has used the MCM to identify key ozone precursors and provide
evidence for abatement strategies.
A sustained programme of epidemiological research at St George's,
spanning 20 years, has informed air pollution control policies in the UK
and internationally. Time-series studies of the acute health effects of
daily fluctuations in air pollutants, initially in London, were extended
to Europe-wide collaborations, trans-Atlantic comparisons and studies in
Asian cities. Publication bias has been explored systematically in
meta-analyses of published time-series results, and the adverse effects of
different particulate fractions compared in a UK setting. This evidence
base has contributed substantially to the current UK Air Quality Strategy
and informs ongoing debates about health impacts of shorter-lived
Mercury is extremely toxic and there is a worldwide need to limit its use
and manage redundant stocks. Diverse research in the UoA on mercury in the
environment led to a knowledge-exchange initiative: `Integrating Knowledge
to Inform Mercury Policy' (IKIMP). Since 2009, IKIMP's policy briefings
and reports have had a significant impact on mercury policy at UK,
European and global levels. The United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) adopted IKIMP's decision-making framework to help countries deal
with their redundant mercury. Defra used IKIMP reports to communicate the
UK's position on mercury issues at EU and international levels, and IKIMP
has influenced UNEP's development of the Minamata Convention, the
international, legally-binding convention to limit mercury use agreed in
Novel methods in applied physical volcanology, such as expert
elicitation, and hazard and risk
assessment, developed mostly during the ongoing volcanic crisis at
Soufrière Hills Volcano
(Montserrat), continues to inform decision making, worker and public
safety, and management of
administrative hazard zones that control access. These methodologies have
worldwide using Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) as an exemplar by the
Organisation of Volcano Observatories (WOVO). Bristol researchers have
advised on institutional
programmes and informed international agencies, such as the United Nations
and the World Bank,
to reduce risk presented by volcanic hazards, and save lives. Such is the
impact of Bristol's work at
MVO it has been studied by up to nearly one million school children in the
UK since 2008.