The BBC has recently reported that the UK is set to invest in a number of ash detectors, which will be installed throughout the country. This comes after problems caused to aviation services in 2010 when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted. The ash cloud led to a loss of £1 billion for airlines after they were forced to cancel flights for a number of days, and had significant wider impacts on the economy.

The new systems use Lidar technology to calculate the density of ash in the air, which will then fall into three categories: low, medium and high. Physics applicants should read up on the wider uses of this technology. For example, the technology has revolutionised many forms of mapping, and periodic re-scanning allows for exploration of the ‘fourth dimension’.

Airlines will submit which categories their planes can fly in to the Civil Aviation Authority, who will then determine and forewarn which airlines are safe to fly. This process will help to prepare airlines and minimalise the uncertainty and disruption which characterised the events of 2010. 

Geography and Earth Sciences applicants should consider how these advances in technology limit the severity of the effects of volcanic activity. They, along with Economists, should also consider the part economic development plays in a country’s ability to invest in, and afford, such technologies. 

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