Met Office volcano computer models criticised

This blog is no stranger to criticising the UK Met Office.  Generally the criticism has been aimed at the Met Office’s biased and intransigent determination to push a global warming agenda based on computer modelling and flawed temperature records and data sets, irrespective of evidence and observation.  Clearly this failing is not confined to climate change and global warming.

Following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano the Met Office has been projecting the spread and impact of volcanic ash – based on computer models that rely on assumptions, exactly the same as Met Office claims regarding climate change.  This approach is now reaping a whirlwind of criticism and anger as test flights have shown the ash cloud does not pose the risk to aviation that the Met Office said it would.

Therefore it is being said that the Met Office’s approach and reliance on modelling derived probability rather than observed findings has resulted in the unnecessary closure of British and European airspace.  This isn’t the opinion of ill informed bloggers, but that of Matthias Ruete, the European Commission’s director general of transport, who has said air traffic authorities should not have imposed a widespread flight ban:

‘The science behind the model we are running at the moment is based on certain assumptions where we do not have scientific evidence. It is a black box in certain areas.

‘We don’t even know what density the cloud should be in order to affect jet engines. We have a model that runs on mathematical predictions.

‘It is probability rather than actual things happening,’

While the Met Office rushes to defend itself and pass the buck by saying it is the responsibility of aviation authorities to decide if it is safe to fly, it still remains their projections that have led to the suspension of aviation activity.  They may claim that they detected six layers of ash up to 20,000ft, but that does not mean the particles were harmful or any risk to aircraft.

The only way of knowing whether it is safe to fly is to follow the American methodology and take precise measurements of ash concentration and make up, which will enable authorities to make an informed decision about the likelihood of engine damage and windscreen damage.  Whether it is global warming or the spread of thin cloud of volcanic ash, this reliance on computer models and assumptions is no substitute for evidence and observation.  Both are resulting in huge sums of money being lost and major inconvenience caused to people.  It’s time to dispense with the virtual and get real.

Update: Richard North at EU Referendum explains why he feels this take on the story is ‘crap’ and misses the point completely, feeling as he does that:

…the fault lies is in developing a contingency plan which uses the forecast model to define the exclusion zone, without a requirement for refining a limited projection with real world data acquired from other sources, including and especially sampling from suitably equipped aircraft.

As always he makes some excellent and accurate points and you should read his whole piece.  The angle I came at this from is a more blunt dissatisfaction with the way models are held up and given truths and shape decision making, because projections are not always accurate.  My argument is that no model will ever be a substitute for real world observation and collection of evidence, while Richard takes a less black and white view, saying the models need to be augmented with sampling.

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2 Responses to “Met Office volcano computer models criticised”


  1. 1 peejos 20/04/2010 at 2:20 pm

    It’s not really fair to blame the Met Office, but the original body that decided that the BA flight thirty years ago that flew into an Indonesian volvanic plume represented a legitimate datum for the whole EU inspired control. As the BA plane started its engines once it had glided out of the plume, there could not have been the build up of volcanic glass on the rotor blades as postulated. No oxygen is a much more likely explanation; coupled with increased CO2, for the failure of ignition, something which should have been thoroughly evaluated before ever making a hard and fast rule.
    Mind you the Met Office should have put out a ‘Health warning’ about the use of their hopelessly inappropriate conclusions


  1. 1 Met Office volcano ash computer model proved wrong « Autonomous Mind Trackback on 21/05/2010 at 4:47 pm
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