SOFTWARE: Follow That Ash

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Science  28 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5786, pp. 417
DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5786.417e

The eruption of Mount Etna in Italy on 22 July 2001 lofted ash more than 5 kilometers into the atmosphere. Tracking the spread of this material can be tricky because even today's sensitive satellites find it “difficult to ‘see’ ash clouds,” notes engineer Rorik Peterson of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. To help out, Peterson and colleagues offer a program called Puff that projects the path of volcano plumes based on wind data. The software is useful for researchers studying the effects of eruptions, but it also has practical applications, such as guiding aircraft around concentrations of airborne grit that can clog their engines. Included is the program's trajectory for Etna's ash plume.

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