Free Markets, Free People

Volcanic Dust Cloud All An Illusion?

This will go down in history as an epic FAIL:

Britain’s airspace was closed under false pretences, with satellite images revealing there was no doomsday volcanic ash cloud over the entire country.

Skies fell quiet for six days, leaving as many as 500,000 Britons stranded overseas and costing airlines hundreds of millions of pounds.


However, new evidence shows there was no all-encompassing cloud and, where dust was present, it was often so thin that it posed no risk.

The satellite images demonstrate that the skies were largely clear, which will not surprise the millions who enjoyed the fine, hot weather during the flight ban.

Jim McKenna, the Civil Aviation Authority’s head of airworthiness, strategy and policy, admitted: ‘It’s obvious that at the start of this crisis there was a lack of definitive data.

‘It’s also true that for some of the time, the density of ash above the UK was close to undetectable.’

Is there any surprise as to exactly who was responsible for this little mistake?

The National Air Traffic Control Service decision to ban flights was based on Met Office computer models which painted a picture of a cloud of ash being blown south from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

These models should have been tested by the Met Office’s main research plane, a BAE 146 jet, but it was in a hangar to be repainted and could not be sent up until last Tuesday – the last day of the ban.

Just think, but for a coat of paint, thousands of Britons could have been home with their families, commerce could have gone on largely as usual, and airlines (which operate on paper-thin margins as it is) would not be out tens of millions of dollars. Given the notorious precision of the models employed by the Met Office to predict weather, perhaps it would have been wise to send that plane up sans its shiny new paint job? Just a thought.

I guess we should just all be thankful that we’re not relying on the expertise of the Met Office to push broad new government powers. Based on this incident, one could imagine how the world economies might come to a grinding halt, and all based on nothing but an illusion coughed up by a computer model. Well, thank goodness, that could never happen.

[HT: HotAir HL]

12 Responses to Volcanic Dust Cloud All An Illusion?

  • Silence! volcanic dust cloud denier!  The science is settled!  The models are accurate!

  • It all went up in dust

  • My wife’s co-worker was on vacation in Ireland and got stranded for the whole term. Hotels in Ireland were charging $300 a day, the rental car companies charged $400 for a two day overage (a local company, not Hertz, Avis), the restaurants charged $20 for breakfast…
    Like Cap & Tax, etc., some will make out like bandits, others will take it up the wazoo.

  • I see that the Lapdog Media is jumping all over this! 🙁

  • But… but… but… What if the models had been right???  Are you saying that you were willing to risk catastrophic global warming and sea level rising millions of planes crashing into the sea???  The risks were so huge that something HAD to be done even if there were a few small questions about the science!

    / sarc

    One of these days, people are going to start developing a healthy skepticism of computer models.  Yes, they certainly have their place and can save quite a lot of money that would otherwise go to costly and ultimately futile experiments, but the knee-jerk reliance on them that we often see today – ESPECIALLY for enormously complex systems like the atmosphere – is foolishly destructive.

    • I developed a healthy skepticism of computer models in college (83-86) when we studied them.
      Seem to remember something about having enough inputs, and understand of the processes at work to accurately model.  And even then we were taught to take it with a pinch of salt.  And when all else fails you verify with real world test cases.
      Of course, if the media used the term computer simulation, would there be as much trust in the science.

  • They were probably using leftover Nuclear Winter models.

    • Or current Climate Change models.

    • Well, you know, one does have to wonder what model they converted to prove this out.
      Particle dispersal patterns for second hand cigarette smoke perhaps?