Scientists at work under the volcano

U.S. researchers have found a silver lining in the massive ash clouds that have covered much of northern Europe in recent days.

The eruption of a volcano on Iceland shut down commercial air traffic in much of Europe for nearly a week, but it has given the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration a chance to test an advanced computer model for predicting volcanic ash dispersion, writes GCN's Bill Jackson.

The science of volcanic ash dispersion is limited by a lack of detailed information about the composition of the clouds of ash spewed by erupting volcanoes, which can threaten aircraft and change the Earth’s weather, said Gary Hufford, a physical scientist at NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“We can advance the science so we can do a better job of detecting the ash,” Hufford said April 20 during a NOAA briefing on the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

The accuracy of computer models became a flashpoint in the Europe, reports Paul Bentley and Claire Bates at the Daily Mail.

The question is whether the U.K. Met Office's decision to close British airspace for six days was based on faulty models. “A scientific model based on ‘probability’ rather than fact was used by the government agency to forecast the spread of the volcanic ash cloud, according to critics,” the newspaper reports.

The ash cloud also got mixed up in European Union politics, reports Mikael Ricknas of the IDG News Service.

The E.U. telecommunications ministers, grounded by the ash-filled skies, opted to discuss Europe's future digital agenda via videoconferencing rather than meeting in Granada as originally planned. Sounds simple enough, but not so, Ricknas reports.

“Since the switch to videoconferencing wasn't planned, some participants will use it as an argument to reject the basis for the discussions, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, French secretary of state for strategic analysis and the development of the digital economy, wrote in a Twitter message," Ricknas said.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group