We know about flawed computer models of the earth’s atmosphere from Climategate. Now, it looks like flawed computer models have been used by politicians in Europe to cause the biggest disruption of air travel since World War 2. The Financial Times reports:
Flawed computer models may have exaggerated the effects of an Icelandic volcano eruption that has grounded tens of thousands of flights, stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers and cost businesses hundreds of millions of euros.
The computer models that guided decisions to impose a no-fly zone across most of Europe in recent days are based on incomplete science and limited data, according to European officials. As a result, they may have over-stated the risks to the public, needlessly grounding flights and damaging businesses.
“It is a black box in certain areas,” Matthias Ruete, the EU’s director-general for mobility and transport, said on Monday, noting that many of the assumptions in the computer models were not backed by scientific evidence.
European authorities were not sure about scientific questions, such as what concentration of ash was hazardous for jet engines, or at what rate ash fell from the sky, Mr Ruete said. “It’s one of the elements where, as far as I know, we’re not quite clear about it,” he admitted.
He also noted that early results of the 40-odd test flights conducted over the weekend by European airlines, such as KLM and Air France, suggested that the risk was less than the computer models had indicated.
The acknowledgement that the computer models were flawed is likely to provide ammunition for critics who believe that authorities have shown excessive caution. The closure of much of the airspace over Europe over the past five days is estimated to have cost airlines a total of $200m a day in lost revenue.