While you may not remember the name of the volcano that erupted in Iceland in 2010, you may recall how air traffic came to a halt. The ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano filled the skies, threatening to damage passing aircraft.
"The fine ash gets into the engines and the new hot-burning engines can actually melt the ash on the rotors and interfere with operation of the engines," said Lehigh University professor Dork Sahagian, a volcanologist who is researching the aerodynamic properties of volcanic ash and how long different sizes and shapes stay in the atmosphere.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Sahagian, a professor of earth and environmental sciences, and his colleagues are studying how ash travels in the atmosphere during and after volcanic eruptions in order to help predict when it's safe for aircraft to return to the skies.
Their work was featured in a NSF Science Nation video this week.
In addition to volcanology, Sahagian also conducts research in paleoclimatology, stratigraphy, geodynamics and tectonics, global hydrology and sea level. His work on climate changed allowed him to serve as a Contributing Author for the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).