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The Alaska Aviation Weather Unit performs two roles as part of its mission to provide timely, accurate forecasts and warnings to the aviation community:
AAWU - Volcanic Ash Advisory Center
The goal of the international volcanic ash program is to provide worldwide warnings and advisories to aviation interests regarding volcanic ash hazards.
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers are responsible for providing ash movement and dispersion guidance to Meteorological Watch Offices and neighboring VAACs. Only two VAACs cover the United States: the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit in Anchorage and NESDIS Satellite Analysis Branch in Washington DC. This map reflects the worldwide aspect of aviation and drifting volcanic ash.
Each Volcanic Ash Advisory Center performs these functions:
The north Pacific air routes connecting Alaska to the far east carry 10,000 people per day, and up to 50,000 aircraft per year. Some routes pass over the Kamchatka Peninsula with its 32 volcanoes. The Anchorage VAAC in cooperation with the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team have initiated a series of informal agreements to provide advisory assistance about volcanic activity on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory does an excellent job of continuously monitoring several of the Aleutian volcanoes and relaying its observations and forecasts to the National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.
A variety Federal Aviation Adminstration offices around Alaska provide us with pilot reports of Volcanic Ash. They also inform the aviation community about forecasts, warnings and advisories involving volcanic ash dangers.
How the process works:
AAWU - Meteorological Watch Office
A Meteorological Watch Office is responsible for notifying Air Traffic Control of inflight hazardous weather conditions. These offices are assigned specific areas of responsibility which generally coincide with the boundaries watched by an Air Traffic Control Center. The Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Center is unique. Our area of responsibility is identical to our Meteorological Watch Office area. This simplifies coordination for us, but we get very busy when a volcano erupts in our area.
Four Meteorological Watch Offices cover the United States area of responsibility:
Alaska Aviation Weather Unit
NWS NOAA US Dept of Commerce
6930 Sand Lake Road
Anchorage, AK 99502-1845