The eruption of Mount Agung on the island of Bali in Indonesia has emitted a huge plume of volcanic ash over the region, reaching more than 9km up into the atmosphere. This has disrupted flights over Bali and nearby islands. With the Aviation Colour Code listed as red (the most dangerous), air passengers are once again being stranded, just as many were following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland, or during the Puyehue-Cordón eruption in Chile the following year.
The volcano is still erupting. This means it could become even more explosive – and as such flying nearby remains a risk. In addition, volcanic ash disruption is strongly influenced by wind direction and speed – so the evolving situation still needs to be carefully monitored by the local meteorological offices, and also the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre that issues various ash warnings to the aviation sector.
The threat posed by a particular volcano’s ash depends on what it is made of, as no two eruptions are exactly alike. Volcanic ash consists of fragments of pulverised rocks, minerals and volcanic glass (silica) that varies dependent on the chemical composition of the magma.
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