Computation of Probabilistic Hazard Maps and Source Parameter Estimation for Volcanic Ash Transport and Dispersion


Madankan, R., Pouget, S., Singla, P., Bursik, M., Dehn, J., Jones, M., Patra, A., Pavlonis, M., Pitman, E. B, Singh, T., and Webley, P.


Journal of Computational Physics 271.


Volcanic ash advisory centers are charged with forecasting the movement of volcanic ash plumes, for aviation, health and safety preparation. Deterministic mathematical equations model the advection and dispersion of these plumes. However initial plume conditions - height, profile of particle location, volcanic vent parameters - are known only approximately at best, and other features of the governing system such as the windfield are stochastic. These uncertainties make forecasting plume motion difficult. As a result of these uncertainties, ash advisories based on a deterministic approach tend to be conservative, and many times over/under estimate the extent of a plume. This paper presents an end-to-end framework for generating a probabilistic approach to ash plume forecasting. This framework uses an ensemble of solutions, guided by Conjugate Unscented Transform (CUT) method for evaluating expectation integrals. This ensemble is used to construct a polynomial chaos expansion that can be sampled cheaply, to provide a probabilistic model forecast. The CUT method is then combined with a minimum variance condition, to provide a full posterior pdf of the uncertain source parameters, based on observed satellite imagery. The April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland is employed as a test example. The puff advection/dispersion model is used to hindcast the motion of the ash plume through time, concentrating on the period 14-16 April 2010. Variability in the height and particle loading of that eruption is introduced through a volcano column model called bent. Output uncertainty due to the assumed uncertain input parameter probability distributions, and a probabilistic spatial-temporal estimate of ash presence are computed.

title = "Computation of probabilistic hazard maps and source parameter estimation for volcanic ash transport and dispersion ",
journal = "Journal of Computational Physics ",
volume = "271",
number = "0",
pages = "39 - 59",
year = "2014",
note = "Frontiers in Computational Physics Modeling the Earth System ",
issn = "0021-9991",
doi = "",
url = "",
author = "R. Madankan and S. Pouget and P. Singla and M. Bursik and J. Dehn and M. Jones and A. Patra and M. Pavolonis and E.B. Pitman and T. Singh and P. Webley",
keywords = "Inverse problem",
keywords = "Source parameter estimation",
keywords = "Polynomial chaos",
keywords = "Minimum variance estimator",
keywords = "Hazard map "