Part 2: Reading comprehension

Part 2: Reading comprehension

Read the following article about how volcanic ash is monitored for the aviation industry and then answer the questions which follow.

Volcanic ash and aviation

Explosive volcanic eruptions fire large quantities of pulverized rock into the atmosphere, and these clouds of dust can sometimes reach altitudes of several tens of thousands of feet. This dust is made up of very fine particles which can represent a danger for aviation. The International Civil Aviation Organisation has designated nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres, (VAAC), in order to ensure air safety in such circumstances. One such centre is the London Volcanic Ash Advisory centre, run by the UK’s Meteorological Office (known as the Met Office), which is based at the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter. Another is the Toulouse VAAC, run by Météo-France. Between them, these two centres cover all of Europe and much more besides – the Toulouse VAAC also includes all of Africa, plus a large part of Asia, up to and including most of India. The London VAAC has a reciprocal arrangement to serve as back-up with the Toulouse VAAC. London covers the volcanoes of Iceland, whilst Toulouse covers – amongst others – Etna and Vesuvius in Italy, as well as Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, both in the DRC.

These centres collaborate closely with the various networks of observation stations which monitor volcanic activity. When a volcano erupts, monitoring stations notify the VAAC responsible for the area where the volcano is located. The VAAC’s specialist forecasters will then use a combination of volcano data, satellite-based, ground-based and aircraft observations to estimate the extent of the area affected by the ash cloud, both vertically and horizontally. They then use weather forecast models and dispersion models to estimate the likely path of the cloud and how it is likely to disperse. These forecasts are then transmitted to aviation authorities, air traffic controllers and airlines and are used by airlines to inform their Safety Risk Assessments, or SRAs. Based on these, airlines are able to decide whether flights can safely be maintained or whether they will need to be cancelled. When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, French research aircraft – an ATR42 and Falcon 20 – were sent to collect and analyse samples of ash in order establish their composition. The data they collected during close to 50 flight hours proved crucial in deciding when to reopen air space to commercial flights. Pilots are notified of operationally significant changes in volcanic ash or other dust contamination via a specific type of NOTAM, known as an ASHTAM (c.f. also SNOWTAM and BIRDTAM).

Comprehension

  1. What do the VAACs do?
  2. Why is Exeter mentioned in this article?
  3. As well as monitoring European volcanoes, such as Vesuvius and Etna, which other areas come under the responsibility of the Toulouse VAAC?
  4. Match the correct sentence ending (column B) with the sentence beginning (column A)
    A B
    First of all… the VAAC’s forecasters use a variety of data to work out the height and width of the cloud.
    Next… the VAAC gives its reports and forecasts to a variety of aviation organisations and professionals.
    Then… the station which monitor volcanic activity tell the relevant VAAC that an eruption has happened.
    Finally… the forecasters work out where the cloud is likely to go.
  5. What is an SRA?
  6. Explain the role played by the French ATR42 and Falcon 20 during Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption in 2010.
  7. What is an ASHTAM?

Vocabulary building

Choose a word or expression from the list below to replace the underlined word or expression in the sentences which follow.

be – work with – informed – small amounts of – many other areas – send – important – are responsible for

  1. Explosive volcanic eruptions fire large quantities of pulverized rock into the atmosphere.
  2. This dust is made up of very fine particles which can represent a danger for aviation.
  3. Between them, these two centres cover all of Europe and much more besides.
  4. These centres collaborate closely with the various networks of observation stations which monitor volcanic activity.
  5. French research aircraft were sent to collect and analyse samples of ash in order establish their composition.
  6. Pilots are notified of operationally significant changes in volcanic ash or other dust contamination via ASHTAMs.