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Volume 18, issue 1 | Copyright

Special issue: Risk and uncertainty estimation in natural hazards

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 41-63, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-41-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Jan 2018

Research article | 04 Jan 2018

Multi-level emulation of a volcanic ash transport and dispersion model to quantify sensitivity to uncertain parameters

Natalie J. Harvey1, Nathan Huntley2, Helen F. Dacre1, Michael Goldstein2, David Thomson3, and Helen Webster3 Natalie J. Harvey et al.
  • 1Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK
  • 2Department of Mathematical Sciences, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
  • 3Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK

Abstract. Following the disruption to European airspace caused by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 there has been a move towards producing quantitative predictions of volcanic ash concentration using volcanic ash transport and dispersion simulators. However, there is no formal framework for determining the uncertainties of these predictions and performing many simulations using these complex models is computationally expensive. In this paper a Bayesian linear emulation approach is applied to the Numerical Atmospheric-dispersion Modelling Environment (NAME) to better understand the influence of source and internal model parameters on the simulator output. Emulation is a statistical method for predicting the output of a computer simulator at new parameter choices without actually running the simulator. A multi-level emulation approach is applied using two configurations of NAME with different numbers of model particles. Information from many evaluations of the computationally faster configuration is combined with results from relatively few evaluations of the slower, more accurate, configuration. This approach is effective when it is not possible to run the accurate simulator many times and when there is also little prior knowledge about the influence of parameters. The approach is applied to the mean ash column loading in 75 geographical regions on 14 May 2010. Through this analysis it has been found that the parameters that contribute the most to the output uncertainty are initial plume rise height, mass eruption rate, free tropospheric turbulence levels and precipitation threshold for wet deposition. This information can be used to inform future model development and observational campaigns and routine monitoring. The analysis presented here suggests the need for further observational and theoretical research into parameterisation of atmospheric turbulence. Furthermore it can also be used to inform the most important parameter perturbations for a small operational ensemble of simulations. The use of an emulator also identifies the input and internal parameters that do not contribute significantly to simulator uncertainty. Finally, the analysis highlights that the faster, less accurate, configuration of NAME can, on its own, provide useful information for the problem of predicting average column load over large areas.

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