Spatial evaluation of volcanic ash forecasts using satellite observations
Abstract. The decision to close airspace in the event of a volcanic eruption is based on hazard maps of predicted ash extent. These are produced using output from volcanic ash transport and dispersion (VATD) models. In this paper the fractions skill score has been used for the first time to evaluate the spatial accuracy of VATD simulations relative to satellite retrievals of volcanic ash. This objective measure of skill provides more information than traditional point-by-point metrics, such as success index and Pearson correlation coefficient, as it takes into the account spatial scale over which skill is being assessed. The FSS determines the scale over which a simulation has skill and can differentiate between a "near miss" and a forecast that is badly misplaced. The idealized scenarios presented show that even simulations with considerable displacement errors have useful skill when evaluated over neighbourhood scales of 200–700 (km)2. This method could be used to compare forecasts produced by different VATDs or using different model parameters, assess the impact of assimilating satellite-retrieved ash data and evaluate VATD forecasts over a long time period.