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Met Office defends flight ban software

The UK’s Met Office has hit back against allegations that its computer modelling techniques have resulted in the 'unnecessary' grounding of flights across Europe.

The flight ban, which is costing airlines worldwide an estimated £130 million a day, came into effect after Iceland’s unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted last Wednesday.

Matthias Ruete, the European Commission’s director general of transport, last night disagreed with the widespread ban. “The science behind the model we are running at the moment is based on certain assumptions for which we do not have scientific evidence,” Ruete said, adding that he believed that the no-fly zone should be restricted to a 20 or 30-mile radius of the volcano itself.

But the Met Office’s Barry Gromett today rejected the criticism levelled in a Telegraph article that advice from the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre was based on "probability rather than fact".

Gromett told THINQ that the VAAC’s Nuclear Accident Model, developed after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, is based on "Lagrangian particle modelling", and had been successfully used to manage a number of emergencies, including the Kuwaiti oil field fires during the first Gulf war and the 2005 oil refinery fire at Buncefield.

"Our model has a proven track record in monitoring, predicting and anticipating dispersion. Buncefield confirmed its accuracy," said Gromett.

"I refute the accusation that it is not fit for purpose."