Multi-level emulation of a volcanic ash transport and dispersion model to quantify sensitivity to uncertain parameters
Following the disruption to European airspace caused by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull 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 on these predictions and performing many simulations using these complex models is computationally expensive. In this paper a Bayes linear emulation approach is applied to the
... 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 to combine information from many evaluations of a computationally fast version of NAME with relatively few evaluations of a slower, more accurate, version. 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 fast, less accurate, version of NAME can provide useful information without needing the accurate version at all. This approach can easily be extended to other case studies, simulators or hazards.