Quantifying the global risk of volcanic eruptions to the airline industry

Project summary

Volcanic ash is a major safety and economic hazard for aviation. 10 years after the multi-billion dollar economic losses associated with the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, there has been no considered cross-airline engineering solution, or financial strategy for how to deal with the existential threat of volcanic eruptions in a connected world sustained by the freedoms of shared airspace. This project will draw together the expert inter-disciplinary team required to perform the first review of lessons learned, remaining challenges, engineering solutions, and financial models for coping with the next event(s). Within the timeframe of the project, we will use deterministic ash dispersal and climate models to produce example probabilistic risk maps for the busiest flight paths on Earth in the case of large eruptions from Iceland and Italy. These will underpin the development of a financial planning strategy, validated against the 2010 event, and proposals for the cross-airline insurance model that will determine the options available to the industry. To achieve these impactful goals, the project brings together leading volcanologists, jet engine engineers, world leaders in aviation policy and governance, and economists expert in managing risk. This project pushes the intellectual boundaries of how to deal with unpredictable inter-dependent, exogenous risks.

Term: Epiphany 2021


Project fellows

Principal Investigator: Dr Fabian Wadsworth (Earth Sciences)
Principal Investigator: Professor Julian Williams (Durham Business School)