Warning Level For Alaskan Volcano Raised
February 1, 2012

Warning Level For Alaskan Volcano Raised

The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised a warning level for a remote Alaskan volcano on Tuesday, indicating a possible eruption.

The center elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano after a new lava dome was spotted in the summit crater.  Officials said the dome was about 130 feet in diameter as of Monday.

The volcano is a 5,675-foot peak on an uninhabited island, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.

Authorities say sudden eruptions could occur at any time, and ash clouds 20,000 feet above sea level are possible.

The observatory did say that there have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity "during this current lava eruption."

Cleveland had one of its first explosive eruptions since 2001 on December 25 and 29 last year, destroying the dome that had grown in the crater over the year.

"The volcano's most recent significant eruption began in February, 2001 and it produced 3 explosive events that produced ash clouds as high as 39,000 feet above sea level," the observatory said Tuesday. "The 2001 eruption also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea."

The volcano lies directly below the commercial airline path between North America and Asia, meaning a major eruption could disrupt international air travel.

About 90 percent of all air freight from Asia to Europe and North America flies over Alaska air space, and hundreds of flights fly through Anchorage's air space on a daily basis.

Scientists are relying on data from satellite imagery or photos sent to the observatory from airplanes that pass over the volcano to make observations.

Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano that erupted last year forced hundreds of flights across Europe to be cancelled.  This eruption came 13 months after Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, forcing thousands of flights per day to be grounded.


Image Caption: This GeoEye IKONOS image shows a faint plume issuing from Cleveland Volcano at 2:31 PM on September 14, 2010. Red in this image highlights areas of vegetation detected by the near-infrared channel. Credit/Copyright: 2010 — GeoEye


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