Our ash forecasts are all cloudy

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano and its ash cloud has been back in the news again as more flights get canceled. Hence, the Wall Street Journal recently had an interesting article (“Cloudy With a Chance of Danger: Airplane vs. Ash”) by Carl Bialik about aviation’s US$1.7 billion question: How much volcanic ash is in the air and how much is too much for an airplane engine? Bialik noted that cancellations have already cost airlines US$1.7 billion and they are increasingly lashing out at the statistical models that predict how much ash is out there and where it is. In fact, Irish airline Ryanair has gone so far as to say in a statement that the UK model of volcanic ash clouds is "substantially fictitious."

In a separate post for his blog (“The Numbers Guy: Carl Bialik examines the way numbers are used, and abused”), Bialik then noted that not everyone is critical of aviation authorities. However, he pointed out that predicting ash clouds remains a very hazy affair – along with how much ash is to much ash.

Hence, we would like to ask you our readers what you think about the response to the ash cloud: Are aviation authorities being overly cautious and conservative or has their response been just about right?  

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