Predicting volcanic ash with Google Earth

The “Puff-Volcanic Ash Tracking Model” is a system of Google Maps and Google Earth KML files that help predict the ash patterns for volcanoes around the world. As explained in their user manual:

Puff simulates the transport, dispersion and sedimentation of volcanic ash. It requires horizontal wind field data as a function of height on a regular grid covering the area of interest. Puff output includes the location (in 3 dimensions), size, and age-since-eruption of representative ash particles. It can also produce gridded data of relative and absolute ash concentration in the air and on the ground. Puff is a fast and efficient research and operational tool for predicting the trajectories of ash particles, which is essential for hazard assessment.

When you visit their site, you can click on any volcano icon to view information about their predicted ash trajectory, as seen here:


In many cases, you can click on the “3D” icon to view the ash cloud as a 3D tour in Google Earth, as seen here:

It’s quite a sophisticated system, and could be quite useful in the event of a major eruption. You can see it all for yourself on the Puff website.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Very interesting. If they can accuratley model particulate dispersion in the atmosphere, this would also potentially be useful for predicting fallout dispersion following a nuclear blast, or isotope dispersion after a nuclear accident similar to Chernobyl.

  2. Mark Horrell says:

    Site is password protected. Data/model no longer available to the public.

Leave a Reply