Ash Cloud, My Ash??

April 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm (By Amba)

The UK’s Mail reports something AbFlab (no!  not flabby abs — absolutely flabbergasting):

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

The satellite images will be used by airlines in their battle to win tens of millions of pounds in compensation from governments for their losses.

If you’re thinking this is Climate Change Redux, I’m seeing it a bit differently.  The key passage for me is the one that comes next:

The National Air Traffic Control Service decision to ban flights was based on Met Office computer models [emphasis added] 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.

Evidence has emerged that the maximum density of the ash was only about one 20th of the limit that scientists, the Government, and aircraft and engine manufacturers have now decided is safe.

Based on computer models. Huh!

Have you ever noticed how the very same trends play themselves out in miniature in our personal lives and writ large on a national and even global scale?

Debt, for instance:  household debt and national debt mushroomed in tandem, manifesting the exact same Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about it tomorrow” mindset individually and collectively.

When I think of a whole country’s airline system shut down on the basis of computer models, what I see is all of us hunched over, faces pallidly lit, scrying our computer screens instead of looking out the window . . . or walking out the door.

(Thanks to reader_iam for the tip.)

3 Comments

  1. William O. B'Livion said,

    “If you’re thinking this is Climate Change Redux, I’m seeing it a bit differently. ”

    No, you’re not. You’re seeing exactly what the rest of us skeptics are seeing.

    They have really *cool* computer models that have the unfortunate bug of not replicating reality in any significant way.

    “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.”

    How about “look up”?

    “Debt, for instance: household debt and national debt mushroomed in tandem, manifesting the exact same Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about it tomorrow” mindset individually and collectively.”

    We no longer have any debt. We don’t own a home yet, which will be a debt, but until then we pay our credit cards in full at the end of every month. And we pay our own Health Insurance.

  2. Models, Computer Models, and Fantasies said,

    […] Hat tip: Amba […]

  3. Kate said,

    The problem with some computer models, volcano ash clouds being in that group, is that there has been little or no validation of those models. It’s hard to do when normal sampling techniques don’t work well because it’s too hazardous to collect them. Some of the worst ash is barely visible, but it still does a tremendous amount of damage. There was car damage from Mt. St. Helen as far away as Northern Canada and Alaska and the ash cloud was never visible in those places.

    With the little problem of jet engines quitting due to ash, I’d rather stay on the ground if there’s any doubt as to the safety of flying through possible ash.

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