Public help study volcanic ash fallout

Members of the public have helped scientists study Icelandic volcano eruptions, by gathering ash samples for analysis.

A UK campaign, involving Facebook and Twitter, invited people to collect ash grains from the eruption of the Grímsvötn volcano in 2011.

The responses, from Shetland to Exeter, will help scientists better understand how ash disperses.

Taping samples

The UK has improved its ash monitoring ability in recent years, and these results will help us prepare better for future events.

Dr John StevensonSchool of GeoSciences

Hundreds of people, including groups of schoolchildren, collected grains by wrapping sticky tape around books and leaving them outdoors.

This tape was then stuck on to white paper and posted to scientists at the British Geological Survey, and the samples were tested for ash at the University of Edinburgh.

The results were combined with data gathered by the BGS, Met Office, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and Department for the Environment and Food and Rural Affairs, who caught ash in air pollution sensors, rainwater collectors and pollen traps.

Strong predictions

Mapping the results countrywide showed that more ash fell on Scotland and Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

The findings matched with Met Office predictions of ash fall.

A volcanic plume from the eruption, which began on 21 May, reached 12 miles high.

An ash cloud caused the cancellation of about 900 flights in the following days across the UK, and northern Europe.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Volcanology, was carried out in collaboration with the British Geological Society with input from SEPA, DEFRA and the Met Office.

It was supported by the Scottish Government and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Thanks to the efforts of people all over the country, scientists have been able to measure the direct effects on the UK of an Icelandic eruption.

Dr John StevensonSchool of GeoSciences