Ash sampling guidelines

Interested in volcanoes and want to help research carried out by the BGS and UK universities? There are two ways in which you can help:

Ash observations

When there is a significant volcanic ash fall we will reinstate a questionnaire that will allow you to help us study the distribution of the ash fall and produce a map.

You can also take photos and make descriptions of ash fall and other volcanic hazards through our app, myVolcano. Your observations will be loaded onto an interactive map, where you will be able to see other observations across the country. This will help us map the distribution of ash across the UK.

You can also upload photographs and descriptions through the myVolcano website.

Ash sampling

Collecting samples of volcanic ash can be very simple and helps to provide information on the distribution of the ash fall.

You can collect a sample following the simple method below or others described in the video. Once you have collected your sample, you can upload your measurements using the myVolcano app, or send them in the post with your sample!

If ash has been forecast in your area, this is a simple method for collecting it.

What you will need:

  • sticky tape
  • scissors
  • an old book or magazine
  • a sheet of plain white paper

Collecting a sample

  1. Open the book, stick the end of the tape to the edge of the page, close the book and role the tape around the book (sticky side out). Cut the tape and stick the end to another page of the book.
  2. Put the book outside, preferably somewhere high-up (away from surface blown dust and trees) — a car roof is ideal.
  3. Weigh it down with something heavy to stop it blowing away.
  4. Make a note of the date and time that you put your book out and leave it outside for a day or so, or until the ash fall period is over.
  5. Clean a section of the car windscreen (e.g. 30 cm by 30 cm) so that you can take a photo of it at the end of your collection period
  6. When you have finished collecting ash, put the sheet white paper over the tape and press it down onto the sample
  7. Make a note of the date and time that you collect your sample

Sending your results

If you're using the myVolcano app:

  1. Record your location
  2. Type in a description e.g. sticky-tape on paper sample from *volcano name* eruption
  3. Take a photograph, using the 'Add a Photo' tool, of the section of car windscreen you cleaned when you started collecting ash and give it a name e.g. car windscreen at end of sampling period
  4. Slide the 'collect Ash Sample' to green and in the 'Measurements' section record any measurements you made including the start date & time and the end date & time of ash collection
  5. Submit your record and write the reference number generated by the app on the back of the sample
  6. Add your email address on the paper if you would like to find out what we learned from the samples
  7. Cut the tape at either end of the piece of paper, place in an envelope and send to BGS Edinburgh (address below)

If you're not using the myVolcano app:

  1. Label the paper with your town, postcode, and the start date & time and end date & time of ash collection.
  2. Add your email address if you would like to find out what we learned from the samples.
  3. Cut the tape at either end of the piece of paper and send to BGS Edinburgh

Send all sample to:

*insert volcano name* ash sample
British Geological Survey
Lyell Centre
Research Avenue South
EH14 4AP

How you've already helped

Members of the public helped BGS collect ash that fell in the UK during the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption and the 2011 Grímsvötn eruption.

The Volcanology team would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping to advance scientific understanding of the processes behind volcanism in Iceland.

View Grímsvötn volcano ash images and Grímsvötn 2011 ash collection findings.


Contact Dr Katy Mee or Dr Julia Crummy for further information.